21 July 2018

The Only Crime Is to Get Caught

A federal judge just unloaded a can of whup-ass on FBI agents for gross misconduct in obtaining warrants.

The misconduct is not a surprise. It is the nature of law enforcement to ignore the rules unless there is a real and immediate consequence for their misdeeds:
A federal judge in San Francisco recently excoriated the government over its improper methods in searching one suspect's cell phone and in the use of a stingray to find an alleged co-conspirator.

Prosecutors say the two men, Donnell Artis and Chanta Hopkins, were engaged in credit card fraud and also illegally possessed firearms, among other pending charges that also involve four other people. The crux of the issue is that, in April 2016, an FBI agent sought and obtained two warrants from an Alameda County Superior Court judge: one to search Artis' phone and another to deploy a stingray to locate Hopkins.


However, California law does not allow state judges to sign off on warrants for federal agents, something that this particular FBI agent, Stonie Carlson, apparently did not know.

"But the two warrants were plagued by numerous errors, reflecting a pattern of systematic recklessness by law enforcement that militates in favor of suppressing the evidence (and against applying the 'good-faith exception' to the exclusionary rule)," US District Judge Vince Chhabria wrote in a July 3 order. "This ruling is published separately to put the relevant actors in the criminal justice system on notice that California law prevents state judges from issuing search warrants to federal law enforcement officers, which means that federal law enforcement officers are not permitted to execute such warrants."


"The good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule does not apply in this case," Judge Chhabria wrote in the second July 3 order. "Perhaps any one of the above-referenced errors, viewed in isolation, could be excused under the good-faith exception. But the whole string of errors embodied in these warrant applications militates against applying the good-faith exception. Indeed, although the above-described errors are the most egregious ones, they are not the only instances of sloppy, inappropriate law enforcement work.
What the judge doesn't explicitly say, but which is strongly implied by the rest of the article, is that the FBI agents were lying through their teeth.

This is not a surprise.  The product that law enforcement produces is case clearances, and the downside of occasionally suppressed is not considered to be a major issue career-wise for those officers.

Short version:  Police lie and break the law because they are rewarded for lying and breaking the law.


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