no third solution

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Conservative Blogs Circulating Fake Court Records for Freddie Gray Jr

April 29th, 2015

NOTE: Updated at 2:31pm Eastern to reflect new or updated information.

A few conservative blogs are circulating some unsubstantiated rumors that Freddie Gray Jr. had spinal surgery a week prior to his fateful arrest and subsequent death in Baltimore Police custody.

Examples of the allegations can be found on Snopes, since I’m not interested in linking to those other blogs. Snopes currently lists this rumor as “unconfirmed”, although they indicate:

The claim appeared almost simultaneously in three places: The Facebook page of Baltimore-based Fox affilate WBFF, the blog The Conservative Treehouse, and the blog The Fourth Estate.

Public records from Maryland County courts were linked, but much of the claim hinged on “sources” and dot-connecting.

At the time of my search, I found this case for Fredericka Gray (Gray’s mother).

unaltered screenshot of a case involving fredericka gray

Due to some 404 errors (the Maryland public records search may have been temporarily offline or overloaded with requests), I was initially unable to find the related 13C14101574, I mistakenly concluded that this screenshot had been doctored to use Freddie’s name in lieu of his mother’s. Case 13C14101574 is from the original screenshots, and so they do not appear to have been altered, as I had originally suspected. Here are the screenshots from that case number:

fake freddie gray court records

In any case, this case involve Gray as party to an out-of-court civil settlement with Allstate, and not from a “recent car accident”.

The Baltimore Sun has since reported that these cases involve the restructuring of that settlement.

Court records examined by the Baltimore Sun show the case had nothing to do with a car accident or a spine injury. Instead, they are connected to a lawsuit alleging that Gray and his sister were injured by exposure lead paint.

Of course it is still possible that Gray was involved in an automobile accident and/or had spinal surgery a week prior to his arrest, but the dots certainly do not connect in the manner that the conservative blogs would have you believe.

And even if Gray had a recent surgery, that still does not absolve the Baltimore Police Department of what appears to be obvious neglect of a suspect in their custody.


WBFF, Baltimore’s Fox affiliate network has since pulled the story from their Facebook page:

Snopes has gone back and forth on this all day, sometimes it is listed as “False” and sometimes as “Undetermined”. Until evidence supporting the “Car accident and surgery” narrative surfaces, though, I’m inclined to believe it’s false.

Did Mike Brown Break Darren Wilson’s Eye Socket?

August 22nd, 2014

A few people have mentioned that Ferguson PD officer Wilson sustained serious injuries and that this would be a game-changer. It certainly would, if it’s true. Is it? I don’t know.

The origin of this story appears to be a rabid right-wing blogger, the sort of online space where “towel-heads”, “n*ggers” and “mud-people” is common and accepted parlance. The x-ray imagery included in his post appears to be stock image, deliberately doctored to remove such indications, perhaps to give the casual observer the impression that it was an actual x-ray from the actual Officer Wilson.

Consider also: video evidence does not appear to cast Wilson as a man who suffered a broken face (a fractured orbital is generally a serious injury). He did not call in the incident, nor mention it to dispatch in any account that I have seen. Timeline puts Wilson at the scene some 4 hours after allegedly sustaining the injury. The publicly available autopsy report specifically indicate that there were no outward signs of struggle (contusions, lacerations, broken hands/fingers, etc.) on Brown, which would likely be consistent with breaking someone’s face.

But then you have to ask: why was this not the VERY FIRST bit of information released with Wilson’s name, last Friday? Certainly from a PR/damage control perspective, if true, this would have been important to make public — certainly more important than the ham-fisted attempt to paint Brown as a criminal who had just robbed a liquor store, which was essentially character-assassination: Brown was not stopped on suspicion of any criminal activity, so even had he robbed that store, that fact would be basically irrelevant. So, why wait to release information about Wilson’s injuries? And release the information through some wack-job blogger?

Related: Fox News appears to have recently picked up this “story” citing anonymous sources within the department and/or DA’s office. Perhaps they do have such sources, and perhaps this is actually how it happened. Or perhaps, they simply ran with some nutjob’s blog in an effort to “scoop” the competition.

No other media outlet is reporting on Wilson’s “broken orbital” or that he was “badly beaten”, and CNN is now directly contradicting these stories.

Worth noting: Fox News is still reporting matter-of-factly that Brown “stole cigars”. Video taken at the scene and which has since been made public, does not seem to corroborate that, or at least lends possible alternatives. Brown’s friend, who would be an accomplice to that “theft” has not been charged with any crime. The store employees/owners did not call the police, and no stolen cigars have been reportedly recovered from Brown’s body.

I suppose time will tell.

Detroit to Implement New York Style “Stop and Frisk”

August 20th, 2013

In Detroit, when you call the police because you actually need their assistance the average response time is something like 40 minutes; this is clearly a Department which needs to direct every available resource towards providing actual help and assistance to those in immediate need.

Instead, Detroit is moving forward with a stop-and-frisk policy, designed by the same consultants who implemented the controversial (and recently-ruled unconstitutional* program in New York City).

Defenders of these “stop-and-frisk” programs, like Detroit Police Assistant Chief Eric Ewing, are quick to argue about “reasonable suspicion”,

If we have reasonable suspicion someone is about to commit a crime, we’re allowed to stop that individual. If we have a good reason to believe they may be armed — say, if we see a holster, or a bulge that looks like a gun — then we’re allowed to search them. That’s just being proactive.

We’re not telling our officers they have to go out and stop X-number of people each day. But we are telling them to do police work.

But the basis of this “reasonable suspicion” is deference to the officer’s judgment, which statistical evidence — this is data coming from the NYPD — demonstrates to be laughably unreliable: About 90% of those stopped were completely innocent of any wrongdoing, i.e., the officer’s judgment was wrong, 90% of the time.

Let that sink in: Ninety percent of the time, they’re wrong. Yet we’re supposed to defer to their judgment?

The real issue is that stop-and-frisk, especially in light of the data, is essentially a fishing expedition. It’s NOT good policing, it’s an absolute and undeniable abrogation of people’s right to be secure in their person, and not to be harassed by the police at every corner..

While Ewing and other apologists may argue that their officers are stopping people “with a reason”, the statistics demonstrate otherwise. I suspect the reality is a combination of these three factors (hopefully more of 1 & 2 than of 3), among others:

  1. Officers are just not very good at determining whether there is a reason to make a stop in the first place.
  2. Or, Officers are being forced to make more stops than their judgment dictates, because of quotas imposed from their CO’s (this is fact in NY, and probably true in most other locales)
  3. Or, they are simply harassing people because they can.

To put this in some additional perspective: Detroit is literally bankrupt. It can’t afford streetlights, snow removal, garbage pick-up, etc. Further, there is a half-century (or more) of well-deserved mistrust and hostility towards law enforcement. Police response time is win-the-internet level of epic failure. Yet somehow, they think that randomly stopping people who are doing nothing wrong (and a 90% failure rate is akin to random stops) is a good use of what few resources they have?

No. It’s a waste of time, and it’s likely to be counterproductive. Every minute they spend harassing 90% of innocent people is a minute which could’ve been used doing actual police work, solving real crimes, doing community outreach, being available for real emergency calls and citizens in distress, etc., is a minute invested in fomenting even more distrust and hostility towards law enforcement.


* The News spends a lot of time on the racial issue, and while this may be a concern for some, I think it’s a red herring, and “journalists” should be ashamed for playing this card in lieu of addressing the real, tangible problems. I take issue with Scheindlin’s ruling on similar grounds: it simply is not the right reason to oppose these tactics.

no third solution

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