Stanislaus DA’s investigator faces contempt of court charge

Article courtesy of the Modesto bee
Steve Jacobson

An investigator with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office faces a contempt of court charge on accusations of speaking to an alternate juror during deliberations in a trial.

Investigator Steve Jacobson is charged with contempt of court in connection with improper contact he had with the alternate juror, according to a filed document signed by Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden. The judge has denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the charge and scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Friday.

The document says improper conduct occurred during the trial for Aleo John Pontillo, a Modesto bail bondsman acquitted of kidnapping for extortion and bail-forfeiture fraud charges Dec. 10. After an investigation that went on for several years, a five-month trial and two days of deliberations, the jury returned with not guilty verdicts.


Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris

District Attorney Birgit Fladager said there was no wrongdoing on the part of Jacobson, who still works for her office. He was one of the investigators in the Pontillo case.

“He is a fine and dedicated criminal investigator,” Fladager said. “He most certainly did not have any improper contact with an alternate juror at any point in the proceedings.”

Frank Carson, Pontillo’s attorney, has filed court documents in support of the contempt charge against Jacobson. He also argues that Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris should face the same charge, claiming the prosecutor was part of an effort to corrupt the jury.

“I have no doubt that if I or my investigator had done the same thing to jury members in the same situation, we would have been arrested immediately, restricted from the courthouse and prosecuted on felony charges by the District Attorney’s Office to the fullest extent of the law,” Carson wrote in his declaration to the court.

Michael Rains, Jacobson’s attorney, argues that nothing legally or factually sufficient has been presented to the court to support a contempt charge against his client.

Rains says allegations were made that one of Pontillo’s employees had photographed the alternate juror in the courthouse hallway, so the investigator asked the juror if she had been photographed. He says his client didn’t approach the alternate juror until after the jury had gone into deliberations.

“Investigator Jacobson waited until the juror in question was separated (from other jurors), and he apparently believed she was excused before he conducted what he thought was a legitimate inquiry into a matter not related to the trial,” Rains wrote in his motion to dismiss the contempt charge.


Defense Attorney Frank Carson

Judge Scott Steffen handled the Pontillo trial and heard arguments from Harris and Carson over the claims of improper conduct about a month after the verdict was announced.

But it was McFadden who issued the contempt charge, and all hearings concerning the matter will be held in her courtroom. She will decide whether there is enough evidence to support the charge, which could result in penalties including jail time, community service and a fine.

Judge Steffen has filed a declaration listing what he knows about the claims of improper conduct by Jacobson. At a Jan. 8 hearing, Carson said the investigator spoke to jurors during deliberations, asking them whether they were bothered by Pontillo’s family and friends taking their photographs.

Harris told the judge that Mark Davis, who was one of Pontillo’s co-defendants and still faces fraud charges, told the bailiff that Pontillo’s employee was photographing jurors. The bailiff spoke to one of Pontillo’s relatives, who said it was her who was being photographed in the hallway.

The prosecutor told the judge that Jacobson subsequently spoke with the alternate juror, who said someone had photographed her, and then there was a discussion about why her photo was taken, which was brought to the bailiff’s attention. Harris also said Jacobson spoke to the alternate juror after the jury started deliberating.

Judge Steffen wrote in his declaration that none of this was brought to his attention before the verdict was reached Dec. 10, or before the Jan. 8 hearing. The judge said it’s not clear when Jacobson spoke to the alternate juror, but it appears the conversation occurred while the jury was deliberating and before the alternate jurors were discharged from the trial.

The alternate jurors were still under orders not to discuss the case with anyone at that point, because they could have replaced one of the 12 deliberating jurors, according to the judge’s declaration. The judge’s account was the basis for the contempt charge.

In his declaration, the judge included a portion of the prosecutor’s written response to the accusations against Jacobson. Harris wrote that, on Dec. 9, Jacobson told him that he had spoken with the alternate juror to ask if she had been photographed. The jury had already started their deliberations.

“I told Investigator Jacobson not to talk to anyone anymore about the issue until after the jury was done,” Harris wrote in his response. “I also explained that if the alternate had to be seated (on the jury) we would tell the court.”

The prosecutor said he believed they could wait before informing the court, since the alternate jurors had already been separated from the deliberating jury. He said there was never any attempt by Jacobson to tamper with the jury as Pontillo’s attorney claims.

Carson argued that Jacobson’s actions were an effort to turn the jury against Pontillo and cause them to fear his client as a bad or dangerous man. He says the allegation that one of Pontillo’s supporters photographed jurors is false.

This is typical of the above the law attitude of our men in blue these days, This man is a long time police officer and long time investigator with the DA’s office. He has a lot of experience in high profile cases and knows better.

But he feel he can talk to a juror while in trial and expect no repercussions? It is time to realize that our police officers as a whole are not out for our best interests but there own and whatever  twisted thought process they use to justify these things.

There are many good men and women doing those jobs but if they are idly standing by and doing nothing then they are part of the problem and not the solution. 

Kalifornia is a special place is it not?

Drivers who have seen a steady rise in the price of gasoline can relax: They will almost certainly be paying far less for gas this summer than they have in at least six years — except for those in California.

The Energy Department said Tuesday that it expects the price of gasoline to average $2.55 between April and September, which would be the lowest since 2009.

The one big exception is California, which by far has the highest gasoline prices in the country. California drivers are paying an average of $3.73, higher even than Hawaii and Alaska, which typically pay the nation’s highest average price.

An explosion at an ExxonMobil refinery in Southern California in February has reduced supplies throughout the state, and California has special gasoline requirements so it can’t easily replenish its stockpile with supplies from elsewhere.

We really know how to take care of our people here don’t we? And we are the land of liberals and human rights to have a ” living wage” but apparently not a living CPI.

Even higher than Hawaii Or Alaska?  (Fist pump “whoop whoop”)

Asset forfeiture: Shows new lows in Amerika

Reposted from

L&M Convenience Mart in Fairmont, N.C.

For most of his life, Lyndon McLellan has been in the business of country stores—the types of stores where the employees know customers’ names by heart and workers remain loyal for years and years.

His parents owned a general store and grill, and McLellan began helping out there at the ripe old age of 9. Then, 14 years ago, McLellan decided to try his hand at the family business and purchased his own store in the heart of the Bible Belt, naming it L&M Convenience Mart.

Business has been good for McLellan, and though L&M, located in Fairmont, N.C., began as just a convenience store and gas station, he’s since expanded it to include a restaurant that serves hot dogs, hamburgers and catfish sandwiches.

While most of his employees and their families spend Sunday mornings making right with God, McLellan skips church to man the store. He’s there on Christmas Day and during Thanksgiving dinner—a sacrifice McLellan makes for his employees.

“It’s my livelihood,” he told The Daily Signal. “This is all I know how to do. I’m 50 years old, and if I had to do something else, I’d probably be in trouble. This is what I was brought up in. This is all I know.”

What McLellan didn’t know, though, was that the federal government could come in and take away what he’d worked so hard for.

On a summer day last July, McLellan, who hadn’t yet arrived at the store, received a phone call from one of his employees summoning him to L&M. More than a dozen federal agents had flooded into his business—officers from North Carolina’s Alcohol and Law Enforcement, the local police department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation—and they were asking for him.

“It’s my livelihood. This is all I know how to do. I’m 50 years old, and if I had to do something else, I’d probably be in trouble,” said Lyndon McLellan.

When McLellan arrived at the store, he met two federal agents dressed in suits who asked to speak with him in private. McLellan led the agents to L&M’s stock room, where they asked him if he knew of the term “structuring.”

He had no idea.

The federal agents then showed McLellan paperwork that included deposits to the store’s account at Lumbee Guaranty Bank. The statements showed two deposits made within a 24-hour period totaling $11,400.

The statements, they said, indicated he had a history of consistent cash deposits of less than $10,000, which is illegal.

Then, the agents told the small business owner something that shook him to his core: The Internal Revenue Service had seized all of the money in L&M’s bank account: $107,702.66.

“‘Are you telling me you took my money?'” McLellan recalled asking the agents. “I didn’t understand what was going on. They dropped a bomb on me. I was lost for five to 10 minutes. I can’t believe that y’all guys can walk in here and tell me y’all took every bit of my money out of the bank.”

After law enforcement cleared McLellan’s store, he drove to Lumbee Guaranty Bank. The agents had been there hours earlier and emptied his account, McLellan recalled, walking out of the building with a cashier’s check.

McLellan walked out of the bank with nothing.

Though he didn’t know it at the time, McLellan committed structuring violations when making cash deposits of less than $10,000.

McLellan himself doesn’t handle the deposits—that’s his niece’s responsibility—and a bank teller had previously advised her to make deposits of less than that amount. If cash deposits totaled more than $10,000, the bank had to file additional paperwork, the teller said.

“[Agents] asked if I knew what it was,” McLellan said of structuring. “I didn’t know what it was then, but I’ve learned a lot about it now.”

Structuring laws were originally put in place to catch drug trafficking and money laundering, but more and more instances have arisen where innocent Americans have committed structuring violations without even knowing it.

For unknowingly committing a structuring violation, the government seized all of the money in McLellan’s bank account by using a section of civil asset forfeiture laws that regulates cash deposits.

Civil asset forfeiture is a procedure that allows law enforcement to seize property if it’s suspected of being related to a crime. The practice began decades ago with good intentions.

However, law enforcement agencies have been using civil asset forfeiture to seize property and money for profit.

Between 2005 and 2012, the IRS seized $242 million for structuring violations.

In recent years, seizures executed because of structuring violations have increased dramatically. In 2005, the Internal Revenue Service made just 114 structuring seizures. By 2012, that number had risen to 639. During that same time period, the agency seized $242 million for structuring violations.

While banks must submit reports to the Department of the Treasury for cash deposits of more than $10,000, the government also receives “suspicious activity reports” on deposits below that threshold, Robert Johnson, a lawyer for the Institute for Justice and McLellan’s attorney, told The Daily Signal.

It’s likely the government received a suspicious activity report detailing McLellan’s deposits, which is how he “came onto the government’s radar.”

Johnson also noted that the IRS frequently teams up with local law enforcement to look through suspicious activity reports. By seizing property and money through the Department of Justice’s Equitable Sharing Program, law enforcement agencies share the proceeds of the forfeiture.

“The IRS deputizes these local law enforcement officers to go through suspicious activity reports and to identify cases where people are subject to forfeiture,” Johnson said. “So you have somebody who is not a federal official and yet is deputized to be enforcing federal law.”

In McLellan’s case, an affidavit was completed by a North Carolina law enforcement official, which indicated to Johnson that it was a state official likely combing through these suspicious activity reports who flagged the Fairmont convenience store, he said.

“The government has a financial incentive to broadly apply the forfeiture laws,” Johnson said. “When an agency like the IRS takes money under the forfeiture laws, that money goes back into the pockets of the agency and it’s available to the IRS to fund law enforcement activities without appropriation from Congress. It’s a powerful incentive for law enforcement to abuse civil forfeiture laws.”

Recognizing the increase in structuring violations from Americans who unknowingly violated the law, the Internal Revenue Service announced last year it would only pursue structuring cases if the money was tied to a crime.

Then, in March, the Justice Department announced it, too, would only pursue structuring cases if the defendant had been charged with a crime or if the money was used for criminal activity.

“Appropriate use of asset forfeiture law allows the Justice Department to safeguard the integrity, security and stability of our nation’s financial system while protecting the civil liberties of all Americans,” then-Attorney General Eric Holder said at the time.

During a February 2015 hearing on civil asset forfeiture, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was asked broadly about McLellan’s case, in which there were no criminal charges pending or illegal activity conducted.

“I can tell you there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I don’t think $107,000 is a lot of money to me. To make it and have it taken—it’s not right.” said Lyndon McLellan.

“If that case exists, then it’s not following the policy,” Koskinen told lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee.

The policy change, though, didn’t stop the IRS from seizing McLellan’s money.

“I can tell you there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I don’t think $107,000 is a lot of money to me,” McLellan said. “To make it and have it taken—it’s not right.”

(Photo: Institute for Justice)

‘If You’re Wrong, You’re Wrong’

Months after seizing McLellan’s money, the federal government offered him 50 percent of his money back if he agreed to a settlement deal by March 30. Such settlement offers occur frequently in civil asset forfeiture cases, Johnson said, as victims often opt not to pursue years of litigation and lawyers fees.

McLellan declined the offer, because for him, the government’s seizure of his $107,000 is a matter of what’s right and wrong.

“I guess I’m old school. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. If you’re right, you’re right. And in this case, I feel like they’re wrong,” he said. “And I was raised on—preached to about—what would be right and what would be wrong.”

“In criminal cases, defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Civil forfeiture cases flip this basic legal tenent on its head,” said Jason Snead of The Heritage Foundation.

Now, as is often the norm in civil asset forfeiture cases, McLellan must appear in court to prove his innocence. And it’s that practice that has policy experts calling on Congress to reform civil asset forfeiture laws.

“In criminal cases, defendants are innocent until proven guilty. Civil forfeiture cases flip this basic legal tenent on its head,” Jason Snead, research associate at The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, told The Daily Signal.

“Once the government shows that your property is subject to forfeiture, the burden is on you as the owner to disprove the government. In effect, you are asked to prove your own innocence in order to win back your property. That is a high hurdle to clear.”

For McLellan, the thought of the government seizing citizens’ hard-earned money and property without their knowledge still puzzles him.

“It’s not fair to the American people who work for a living that one day they can knock on the door, walk in their businesses, and say, ‘We just took your money,'” McLellan said. ” … I always thought your money was safe in the bank, but I wouldn’t say that now.”

Law enforcement agencies benefit directly from asset forfeiture, As they get to keep any proceeds for equipment and operations. So they do some things because they can, not because it is right. The courts have ruled recently that the local agencies cannot do this anymore, But have continued to let the feds run abated.

There is the Fucking problem!!!

Idaho deputy catches teen driver speeding, lets him write report

An Idaho teen caught driving 70 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone last month had to have known he was in trouble when he was pulled over by police.

The Ada County Sheriff’s Office says Sgt. Mike Kinzel clocked the teen’s SUV going more than 25 miles per hour over the speed limit through a residential road north of Star last month.

Kinzel initially thought the driver would get a ticket or even possibly a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving. The driver was a 16-year-old boy who was running late.

“The boy owned up to his lousy decision making without being prompted,” the sheriff’s office said in a release.

The deputy said he was going to withold making a decision on a citation or a charge — as long as the teen wrote a report on the dangers of reckless driving.

The boy took the deal. Eight days later, “an exhaustively researched and well documented eight-page report arrived in Sgt. Kinzel’s email box.”

The sheriff’s office wrote on Facebook that the teen won’t be charged.

See photos of the report here:

Folks this is real justice as it was intended, not just a revenue producer.

Retro of the day: REO Speedwagon

Keep On Loving You” is a soft rock power ballad written by Kevin Cronin and performed by American rock band REO Speedwagon. It features the lead guitar work of Gary Richrath. The song first appeared on REO Speedwagon’s 1980 album Hi Infidelity. It was the first REO Speedwagon single to break the top 50 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, reaching the number-one spot for one week in March 1981.[3] The single was certified Platinum for U.S. sales of over one million copies. It peaked at number seven in the UK Singles Chart.[4] “Keep On Loving You” has been described as “a mainstay on most ’80s soft rock compilations” and has appeared on dozens of ‘various artists’ compilation albums, as well as several REO Speedwagon greatest hits albums.