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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.

Update

WBFF, Baltimore’s Fox affiliate network has since pulled the story from their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FOXBaltimore/posts/10152842719584607

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.

Militarization of Law Enforcement: Is it Preparation for Civil War?

December 21st, 2011

A century ago, the Federal government established armories throughout the country ostensibly for the purpose of “national security”, although it’s not abundantly clear what the real threat was at that time. These armories were probably most-often used to supply federal troops and private security brought in to put down popular movements like strikes and shutdowns. This was essentially a civil war, although it is never mentioned as such.

Today, we have the Department of Homeland Security doling out billions of dollars (a nice interactive map, here) to Everytown, USA, in order to supply them with battlefield-grade arms and armor, to fight hypothetical bogeymen and non-existent threats.

Just your ordinary small town police force, nothing to see here

Just your ordinary small town police force, nothing to see here

Authorities in Fargo, ND (which has averaged 2 homicides per year over the last 5 years) spent $8 million buying state-of-the-art military grade weapons like the assault rifles which now come standard in every squad car, and the “$256,643 armored truck, complete with a rotating turret”.

Sadly, rather than being some unfortunate exception, Fargo is just another example in the trend to militarize local police departments (via Daily Beast).

  • In Montgomery County, Texas, the sheriff’s department owns a $300,000 pilotless surveillance drone, like those used to hunt down al Qaeda terrorists in the remote tribal regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
  • In Augusta, Maine, with fewer than 20,000 people and where an officer hasn’t died from gunfire in the line of duty in more than 125 years, police bought eight $1,500 tactical vests.
  • Police in Des Moines, Iowa, bought two $180,000 bomb-disarming robots
  • An Arizona sheriff is now the proud owner of a surplus Army tank.

To understand this trend, you have to understand a little bit about government appropriations. Generally the money is on the table and you have to use it or lose it. The logic is almost always that if you don’t spend the money, if you don’t pretend you need it, then you can get by with less, so they cut your budget. And government agencies are always in the business of preserving their power, whether it is just looking out for No. 1, or something more Machiavellian like amassing your own little fiefdom or mercenary force, the incentive structure in government always works the same way. Use it or lose it.

Also, follow the money:

One beneficiary of Homeland’s largesse are military contractors, who have found a new market for their wares

Warfare is big business and government contracts are essentially guaranteed profit. So the companies involved in this business can afford to spend lots of money (given to them in fulfillment of government contracts) lobbying the government to give them even more budget for larger contracts next year. It is a sick cycle that shows no signs of abating any time soon.

The article highlights some moral hazard of the hyper-militarization, which I would liken to “Field of Dreams”. If you build it, they will come. Well, if you give it to them, they will find a way to use it.

“With local law enforcement, their mission is to solve crimes after they’ve happened, and to ensure that people’s constitutional rights are protected in the process,” says Jesselyn McCurdy, senior legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. “The military obviously has a mission where they are fighting an enemy. When you use military tactics in the context of law enforcement, the missions don’t match, and that’s when you see trouble with the overmilitarization of police.”

When the only tool you have is a hammer, sooner or later, everything starts to look like a nail. When you arm officers to the teeth, when you train them for war, when you hire a disproportionate amount of ex-soldiers, and when you bombard their psyche with warrior mentality training it is not really a surprise when they start putting that training in to practice, no matter if its warranted or not.  Over the last decade we’ve seen an increasing number of SWAT teams raiding teenage rave parties or serving routine drug warrants on non-violent offenders, creating volatility and chaos where there would never have been any had the police taken a more conventional approach and we are even seeing incidents of police tasering and pepper-spraying children.

Riot police attacking protestors

Riot police attacking protestors

What will be the longer-term ramifications of increased militarization, especially in light of NDAA and the PATRIOT Act? I fear that these weapons will one day be turned on the people of this country. I fear that it is a matter of “when”, not “if”. We’re already seeing some of it in the deplorable way that local cops have handled several situations in the Occupy Movement, still in its infancy.

As government institutions always seek to preserve and expand their power even at the expense of their constituents’ liberties and livelihoods, there doesn’t need to be any evil villain, plotting and scheming, no Illuminati/New World Order tin-foil hat bullshit. All of the pieces are already falling in to place, the product of human action, not of human design. In other words, it doesn’t matter if they’re explicitly preparing for a civil war, everything they’re doing is inadvertently preparing for one, anyways.

A century ago, the Federal government’s armories were turned against its citizens, used to put down popular movements and general strikes.

Today, they’re shipping the munitions directly to what will eventually be the front lines.

 

 

 

 

My Country Went to War on Terror and All I Got Was this Lousy Police State

September 30th, 2011

Exactly two years ago yesterday I wrote that the threat of terrorism is essentially non-existent. This is not because the Alphabet Soup Agencies are doing a spectacular job keeping us safe, it’s because even despite all the Imperial meddling around the globe, there just aren’t very many would-be terrorists. If the terror threat was credible, we couldn’t stop it.

Not much has changed since then. In fact, there are so few actual terrorist threats (probably because there are so few actual terrorists) that the FBI has to manufacture its own terror plots, and then take credit for saving the day.

Let’s put things in perspective.

You are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist attack

 

no third solution

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