Category Archives: crime news

Putin’s big aim? Pffftt!

Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine those many weeks ago to prevent an expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Hah! What happened then? Oh, Sweden and Finland have applied for NATO membership. Indeed, if Finland is accepted as a NATO member, the Russian tyrant will watch his country’s border with NATO expand by roughly double what it is at the moment.

So, this begs the question: How is it working out for you … Vlad?

It ain’t!

Russian troops are getting their butts kicked on the battlefield by dedicated Ukrainian soldiers and militia. Putin sought to conquer Kyiv and Kharkiv — Ukraine’s two largest cities — only to watch those efforts literally go up in flames.

Russian soldiers are suffering from low morale, lack of ammunition, faltering equipment, resupply crises and are showing signs of insubordination on the field of battle.

None of this is likely to stem the assault that Putin launched against a sovereign nation. He now is threatening Finland with reprisal if NATO accepts the Finns and the Swedes.

I must point out, too, that NATO — thanks to the diplomatic efforts led by President Biden — is more united than ever in its mission to stand as one against any threats from Russia.

If I were advising Putin, I would consider offering a suggestion for a way to declare victory and just get the hell out of Ukraine.

Racism shows its ugliness

Racism is an ugly and hideous condition that needs to be eradicated from civilized society. Tragically, that won’t happen.

A gunman drove three hours from his hometown in central New York to Buffalo and shot 10 Black Americans to death while they were shopping in a supermarket.

I am left to wonder: How in the name of all that is holy do you stop someone from doing what this gunman did? We cannot execute them all. We cannot round them all up and send them to prison.

Our hearts are shattered. We are left to ponder this latest spasm of gun violence that is wrapped by the specter that the shooter is a filthy white supremacist. He wrote a lengthy manifesto reportedly taken from right-wing talking points about something called “replacement theory” that laments that white people are being replaced by people of color.

So, he went to Buffalo to take matters into his own hands … I suppose.

The gun violence debate will ratchet up, as it should. So will the debate over the racial bias condition of many millions of Americans.

I am left to wish for all I can that we can find a way to end the violence we have all witnessed in Buffalo, N.Y. That’s all I have at this moment.

Gun carnage continues

Here we go … again.

A gunman walks onto a supermarket parking lot and opens fire. He takes his rage inside the store and continues firing. Ten people are dead, three more are injured.

The gunman is taken into custody and then we find out the loon has a history of racial animus against people of color. It happened in Buffalo, N.Y.

If the circumstances surrounding this act of utter insanity sound familiar to Texans, well, it should. It reminds me of the lunatic who drove from Allen — where our son and his family reside — to El Paso, where he opened fire at a Wal-Mart, killing several people.

In both instances, the alleged shooter is a young white man and the victims are African-American or Latino. Hate crime? Yeah. Looks as though we have another spasm of hate-inspired violence on our hands.

We’re going to hear the usual “thoughts and prayers” platitudes coming from politicians of all stripes. That isn’t nearly good enough to deal forthrightly with the issue of gun violence or with the issue of intense racial hatred.

The suspect in the Buffalo case reportedly intended to livestream his insanity. He was wearing tactical gear and was heavily armed with all manner of assault weapons and handguns. He drove more than three hours to Buffalo to kill those innocent shoppers.

I am at a stunned loss for words at this moment.

This much I know: I will not accept that we have become a nation where this kind of insanity is acceptable.

Handle prisoner swaps carefully

Trevor Reed’s release from a Russian prison cell thrills me greatly. The young Texan, a former Marine, is now home after spending 900-plus days in prison for a crime he denies committing.

The Biden administration and members of the Texas congressional delegation worked hard to secure Reed’s release. He’s now home. I wish the young man well as he recovers his health and his emotional well-being.

Now, though, comes a word of caution.

President Biden agreed to swap Reed for a Russian who was held in our prison system. The exchange took place the way it’s done in the movies; the two men walked past each other without saying a word.

I will not dispute the need to do whatever it takes to Americans freed from wrongful imprisonment. I just hope we don’t get too carried away with this idea of releasing foreign bad guys who well could be released to do harm to us.

We still need to get two more Americans out of prison in Russia. Paul Whelan has been held for a couple of years on spying charges; Brittany Griner, a woman’s basketball star, was arrested by airport security agents for trying to board an airplane carrying cannabis products in her baggage.

We need to get these Americans home, too. I just want the administration to be careful about sending Russian lawbreakers back to where they could do harm to this country or our allies.

Do the ends justify the means? In this case, yes … but not every single time.

Lucio deserves new trial

I cannot overstate the significance of the support that a woman condemned to die in Texas prison execution chamber is receiving from both sides of the great political divide in this state.

Melissa Lucio has received a stay of execution from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. She was slated to die on Thursday for the death of her 2-year-old daughter 15 years ago.

I believe she deserves a new trial, given all the doubt about her conviction and the allegation that the state withheld evidence from her defense team.

What continues to amaze me is the support she is getting from tough-on-crime conservatives in the Legislature, led by Plano Republican state Rep. Jeff Leach, who had the honor of telling Lucio this week about the CCA decision to forestall her execution. Lucio’s reaction was to sob uncontrollably.

Leach is a former member of the ultra-conservative Texas Freedom Caucus; he resigned from the caucus a while ago, citing some issues with the hardline positions it was taking. He still is a conservative, but he appears to be a man with an actual heart.

I applaud the leadership he is taking in fighting for Melissa Lucio.

I happen to oppose capital punishment, but you likely know that already. I also oppose the partisan divide that too often splits politicians along party lines even when the issue compels them to seek common ground.

One of those issues is seeking justice for a prison inmate who might have been convicted wrongly.

Condemned woman might get a new trial

It surely isn’t every day that someone convicted of a capital crime wins bipartisan support in her quest for a possible new trial to see if the individual is truly guilty of the crime for which the state has leveled a charge.

Melissa Lucio is that rare case.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today blocked her scheduled execution in a move that has drawn widespread praise across the vast political landscape. Republicans and Democrats alike are hailing the CCA’s decision, given that the state’s highest criminal appellate court isn’t known as being “defendant-friendly” in its handling of these matters.

What’s more, one of the legislators most adamantly in Lucio’s corner happens to be a Republican from Plano, state Rep. Jeff Leach, who next year will become my state representative in the Texas Legislature. OK, that last part doesn’t mean a damn thing, other than my recognition of Leach’s possible impact on my life.

Leach told Lucio the court had granted her the stay, prompting her to cry out and, yes, to cry.

Why the stay?

A court convicted Lucio in 2008 of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah Alvarez, who had fallen down some stairs. The little girl went to sleep a couple of days later and never awoke.

Lucio’s trial reportedly was fraught with vague testimony from key witnesses. The defense team reportedly was denied access to information acquired by state prosecutors. Lucio, of course, denied harming her daughter.

The defendant has drawn support on both sides of the political aisle, an event I find to be remarkable, given the great divide that exists in this state, with liberals seen as “soft” on crime and conservatives seen as those who want to “throw the book” and everything else at criminal defendants.

Melissa Lucio’s execution halted by Texas Court of Criminal Appeals | The Texas Tribune

And so, does Lucio deserve a new trial? It looks as though there well could be enough doubt cast on her conviction to warrant a judicial do-over.

I mean, if the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals — inhabited entirely by Republican judges — thinks there is merit to those questions, then by all means let’s try this case again … and do it right!


Putin: war criminal?

This would be an incredibly difficult case to prove in an international court of law, but there could be evidence mounting that Russian thug/tyrant/despot Vladimir Putin has committed war crimes in his so-far-unsuccessful effort to subjugate Ukraine under the alleged might of his armed forces.

Russian troops are withdrawing from previously held territory in Ukraine and are leaving behind mass graves with the corpses of hundreds of civilians killed shot to death with single bullets in the back of their heads. They appear to have been executed by the Russian invaders.

Then comes the question: Were they acting on orders from the Kremlin?

Accordingly, I suppose one could ask whether there could be rogue commanders in the field acting on their own. Whatever the case, it all — or most of it, at least — falls on the lap of the former KGB spy master who now runs Russia as its commander in chief.

The despicable level of violence is being revealed now as Russian forces pull back from Kyiv and other key Ukrainian cities. Whether they merely are repositioning themselves for a new round of attacks remains to be determined. Whatever the intent, it is clear the Ukrainians are waging one hell of a fight against a force believed at the beginning of this conflict to be so powerful that it would steamroll its way into Kyiv.

They ain’t steamrolling anything.

The Russians, though, appear to have engaged in egregious crimes against humanity. Someone at the top of the Russian chain of command needs to be held accountable.

Let’s see. I believe that would be Vladimir Putin.

Sentence causes heartburn

My first reaction to learning of the sentence given to a former Minneapolis police officer who shot a young man to death thinking she was firing a Taser at him, and not her pistol, was that she got off too lightly.

Former cop Kim Potter will serve two years in the slammer and on supervised probation in the shooting death of Daunte Wright.

Potter is a white woman; Wright was African American.

She got into a tussle with Wright during a stop. Wright started resisting arrest. Potter reached for her service pistol and shot Wright. She carried her Taser on the other side of her belt. The Taser is bright yellow; the pistol is black. They feel differently in the hand and they certainly look differently.

I was horrified when I first heard of the incident. How could a trained police officer make such a grievous error? How does one reach for one device thinking she was reaching for another one?

Potter deserved to spend the maximum amount of time after a jury convicted her of involuntary manslaughter. Then the thought occurred to me … finally! She didn’t intend to shoot Daunte Wright with her service weapon.

I am still wrestling with the correctness of the sentence. I guess I just am not as dumbstruck by the act as I was initially.

Potter is done with police work. Of that I am absolutely certain. It’s just as well, given the horrifying mistake she made in an incident that never should have ended as tragically as it did.

No one is above the law? We’ll see

It has become cliche to declare that “no one is above the law,” that every American citizen must face the same potential punishment for crimes committed, no matter their standing as public officials or as former public officials.

Well, I think we’ll have to see how that plays out as it involves Donald John Trump.

The ex-president of the United States is facing a boatload of allegations that could be proven true. To be fair, those allegations also could wither and die.

Trump occupies a unique place in our nation’s roster of former elected officials. He’s either revered or reviled. Count me among the latter group of Americans. That is my way of suggesting that I hope the “no one is above the law” cliche plays out properly, that not even Donald Trump could avoid time behind bars if the allegations against prove true.

He faces possible indictment in Georgia for trying to coerce a statewide elections official to “find” enough votes to allow him to win that state’s electoral votes in 2020; he lost the state to Joe Biden. A congressional select committee has summoned dozens of Trump aides to testify before the panel about what Trump did on 1/6 when he incited the traitorous mob to storm Capitol Hill. A New York City district attorney has indicted Trump’s company on allegations of fraud; we will get to see whether the Boss — Trump himself — was a party to allegations of inflating his wealth to obtain loans.

I hasten to add that if your run-of-the-mill rich guy is convicted of any combination of these crimes, he would be fitted with a prison jump suit and sent to the slammer. If Donald Trump gets convicted of any of these allegations, do you believe he will go to jail, or to prison? My heart tells me Trump should be sent to the lockup. My head suggests that Trump — if a jury declares him guilty of any of the crimes for which he could be charged — is going to skate free of any time behind bars.

No one is above the law? We might get to see whether that’s true … or just a tired cliche.

Will we actually ‘lock him up’?

A gentleman I have known for more than two decades — a retired journalist who lives in South Australia — has mentioned a particular scenario he would like to see play out regarding the 45th president of the United States.

My friend wants to see Donald Trump arrested, dressed in an orange jump suit and tried for treason against the United States of America. Indeed, my far-away friend believes it’s still possible even as Trump wiggles and writhes in the face of growing pressure from federal and state authorities looking into his myriad business dealings.

Oh, and then we have the 1/6 riot, the insurrection that Trump incited that horrendous day in the final two weeks of the presidency he was about to vacate.

My friend and I exchange messages from time to time and he regales me with his view that Trump presents an existential threat to this great nation. He and I are on the same page as it regards the former Insurrectionist in Chief.

I am still clinging to the notion that an indictment might be coming — perhaps soon — from the Department of Justice. It might involve a charge of sedition against the individual who once swore to protect the Constitution. Sedition, of course, is the act of undermining the government, which Trump — to my mind, at least — did on 1/6 when he exhorted the rioters to “take back” the government.

I am going to wish the best for the investigation into Trump’s knowledge of the 1/6 riot. The “best,” in this instance, would be for congressional and DOJ investigators to cross enough t’s and dot enough i’s to bring a criminal indictment against a man I consider to be a rotten criminal.