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Gang membership and criminal sentencing

gavel2 1 The Trump Administration just recently announced that it was making a priority of prosecuting members of gangs that commit criminal acts, and in particular members of the gang known as MS-13. Maryland’s highest Court just last week addressed whether a sentencing Judge can consider evidence of the defendant’s membership in a gang, even where the underlying crime was not gang related. The case is called Oscar Cruz-Quintanilla v. State of Maryland.
Chief Judge Barbera wrote in the opinion that the defendant was indicted for various crimes related to a home robbery. A jury convicted him of reckless endangerment, wearing/carrying/transporting a handgun, and conspiracy to commit robbery.At sentencing, the prosecution offered for the first time evidence that the defendant had been a member of MS-13. The State called a police Sergeant who testified about and showed pictures of various tattoos on the defendant that showed he belonged to that gang.
The officer said the defendant was a documented gang member since at least 2004. He further testified that members of that gang have to demonstrate loyalty and a willingness to commit violent criminal acts, consistent with its motto translated as “kill, rape, control.”

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More Rockville Violence

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Local lawyer claims school didn’t inform students and parents about fights

 

ROCKVILLE – Two recent altercations at Rockville High School, captured on video and then posted on Facebook have angered a local attorney representing the victim in one of the altercations.

Local attorney Rene Sandler said MCPS should have contacted parents at the school to inform them of a fight between two female students, and an attack involving two other female students that occurred March 6 and March 7.

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Violence and riots and life outside

tear gasLet me begin by stating in no uncertain terms that I absolutely abhor violence. I am for President Obama's efforts to resolve international threats through diplomacy as a first step rather than jumping right into our next war. I am against the NRA's quest to arm every citizen, even those not yet born, with a firearm. That said, I still wonder if it took the utter destruction and looting of a CVS and other businesses in Baltimore to shine the media spotlight on the plight of the inner cities. Granted, the motivation behind much if not most of the looting could very well have been to take advantage of a situation to obtain "free stuff", but that doesn't change whether the burning down of the CVS was a necessary evil to focus media attention on the underlying issues plaguing Baltimore and other cities throughout the country. The city of Detroit has yet to fully recover from the devastation of the riots of 1968 despite great efforts to bring people and industry back to a city from which they fled to the outlying suburbs as a result of those disastrous riots.

Certainly, the plight of the inner cities and the lack of opportunities for its young people has steadily declined over a period of time much greater than the three weeks since Freddie Gray's death. The sending of jobs overseas has been a steady phenomena for well over thirty years. Baltimore was once a major port of entry for overseas cargo. Since the 1980's, with the shift to containerization of cargo, there are now only two major ports of entry on the east coast, Port Elizabeth in New Jersey and Charleston, South Carolina. As a result, all of the other major ports, even New York Harbor, found the need to turn themselves into tourist attractions like the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and The Seaport in New York to salvage lost revenue from the shipping industry and the many jobs that industry provided along the Atlantic coast. Other practices, like the irresponsible pushing of subprime mortgages by unethical lenders seeking to take unfair advantage of the "housing bubble" lead to the massive housing foreclosures that are scattered throughout the poorer neighborhoods of Baltimore and the many other similar cities across the nation.

President Obama in his State of the Union address emphasized the need for the nation to invest in education to enable our youth to compete for higher level jobs. Yet, in Governor Hogan's FY 2016 budget, funding for education in our state was drastically slashed.

Most of us recognize that the upturn in our economy has primarily benefitted the wealthy in our society contributing to a staggering level of income inequality not seen since just prior to the stock market crash of 1929 - 91% of the recent income gains have gone to the top 1% wealthiest Americans.

The question that must be addressed is whether that burning of the CVS in Baltimore will do anything to wake up those in power in both government AND the private sector to move from simply recognizing the ongoing problem to taking actual steps to address the inherent problems in the long term. Will they, together, agree on a plan that includes among other actions: reinvestment of corporate profits in the communities to create more jobs, keeping jobs in the U.S. by providing tax incentives that reward those companies that do and penalize those companies that do not, closing corporate tax loopholes, investing in education to make it affordable to all, not just the wealthy few?

If it took the destruction of that CVS to move us further along towards truly addressing these pervasive issues with long term solutions rather than short term fixes, then it was a wakeup call well worth making.

As for the actual event that set off the days of protest and rioting, the killing of Freddie Gray, let me just say that any commitment to rebuilding our inner cities must be accompanied by some level of respect for the inhabitants of those cities. Recognizing the sanctity of life, all life, especially by those responsible for "protecting and serving" is an essential element. I believe, therefore, that the charges filed by Prosecutor Mosby against the six police officers were justified.

It appears, and I emphasize the word appears, that he was stopped by police for "looking suspicious". I won't comment any further on why he was stopped and let the courts determine that, but what I will comment on is what, at least to me, was clear from the video footage. He was, indeed, "taken down" by six police officers AND his injury occurred during that take down. This is evident from the fact that he is screaming in pain as he is being dragged to the paddy wagon since he clearly is not able to freely move his legs. Anyone who suspects that he was "beaten" by police while in the paddy wagon, in my opinion, is way off base. It is also quite clear to me that, while initially injured during the take down by the officers, his condition was likely exacerbated by both the manner in which he was "placed" in the police van and, then, further exacerbated by the officers' failure to properly secure him in the van while he was handcuffed and shackled resulting in his "bouncing" around the van during the transport. If this isn't an example of depraved indifference to life and negligent homicide, I am not sure what could ever fall into those categories.

While there are numerous questions relating to the overall handling of this case by the police involved, the key question for me is how an unarmed individual, who it does not appear was resisting arrest by six police officers, could be injured to such an extent while in police custody as to ultimately lose his life? Clearly, police face a danger in their work that most other individuals rarely if ever face. I do not see this, however, as a valid excuse. Lack of respect for life is certainly not limited to police; we have seen instances by non-police individuals who shoot first and ask questions later such as in Florida and elsewhere by gun-toting "citizens". I place responsibility for these with the lack of responsible gun legislation throughout the country. However, it is the lack of respect for life by police that is particularly troubling since they are vested with the responsibility to serve and protect.

What makes these events even more ironic if not downright hypocritical is the fact that they have been occurring at a time when the debate of "pro-life" vs. "pro-choice" is occurring across the nation. How is it even possible that there could be more concern about the right to life of an unborn fetus than, at too many times, there is about the right to life of the "born" fetuses that walk our streets as citizens?

I admit I am not in any position to provide any real solutions to this very real problem, however, I will say that any solution has to begin with instilling in everyone a greater appreciation and respect for the sanctity of all life, even life that occurs "outside" the womb!

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Local attorneys take issue with Ferguson Grand Jury

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gavel2As the country discusses the grand jury process in Ferguson, Mo., where jurors declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown, the phrase “A grand jury can indict a ham sandwich” has populated many conversations.

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The dangerous real estate man

house real estateIf you asked anyone on the street to name the top dangerous professions, “real estate agent” is not usually considered.  But the recent murder of Arkansas Realtor® Beverly Carter highlights, once again, the dangers of selling homes. 

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Reflections on Ferguson

bullseye manThere is a deep division in this country. It threatens to overcome and overwhelm us all.
 
After spending several days on the ground in Ferguson Missouri, covering the protests and the riots that occurred after a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, I can tell you first hand this division is real, growing and dangerous.
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Concerns about police behavior arise in Germantown

  • Published in Local

Policelights 1Police and community relations aren’t just strained in Ferguson, Mo. – some believe they’re strained in Montgomery County.

Yolanda Mike’s 16-year old son got into a physical altercation with a Germantown police officer. The story was first reported by WJLA ABC 7 News when one of the station’s photographers captured a video of the incident.

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