Wells Fargo bank teller stole nearly $200,000 from a customer and spent it on a down payment for his home and several vacations

Wells Fargo

A Wells Fargo bank teller accused of stealing $185,000 from a homeless customer has agreed to a plea deal, according to court documents cited by The Washington Post.

The former employee, 29-year-old Phelon Davis, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of interstate transfer of stolen property this week after a 2014 encounter with a homeless customer who tried to deposit $185,000 in cash at a Wells Fargo branch in Washington, DC, the court documents said.

The customer, who was not named but was described as a homeless street vendor, had existing accounts at the bank, but he lacked the identification documents he needed to deposit the $185,000 worth of cash he had been carrying in a garbage bag. The Post said. The man was turned away.

The homeless man “had a surprisingly large balance with the bank,” The Post reported, citing a document related to the case. Davis was accused of forging the customer’s signature to fraudulently open a Wells Fargo account in the customer’s name — including an online login, an ATM card, and personal identification number, all of which Davis controlled. He funded the account with $3,000 of the homeless customer’s money.

The customer had no access to email or the internet, according to The Post, and thus had no knowledge of the fraudulent activity, the newspaper said.

Court documents showed that, over the course of two years, Davis transferred $177,400 of that customer’s money between accounts, and withdrew $185,440, taking $5,000 across state lines, the court documents said. Davis used some of the stolen cash as a down payment on his home, took several vacations, and paid some debts.

Davis has been ordered to pay back the stolen money and could face up to 30 months in prison.

It appears Davis fraudulently opened the accounts during the same period in which Wells Fargo employees were accused of fraudulently opening millions of accounts in customers’ names between at least 2011 and 2015. It was unclear whether Davis’ activity was related to that scandal, which exploded in 2016 and eventually drove then-CEO John Stumpf out of the company. Wells Fargo in July agreed to shell out $142 million to settle the matter.

SEE ALSO: BUFFETT: Wells Fargo made 3 huge mistakes during the fake accounts scandal but one ‘dwarfs all the others’

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Criminal Minds season 13 premiere delivers a new twist on Hotch's … – DigitalSpy.com

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Thomas Gibson in Criminal Minds

Warning: Spoilers for Criminal Minds‘ season 13 premiere are ahead.

Despite a number of hiccups along the way, Criminal Minds is finally back on our screens for season 13 – and it’s been busy tying up all those loose, character-based ends.

Specifically how to solve a problem like Special Agent Aaron Hotchner.

Following the death of Hotch’s arch-enemy Peter Lewis (AKA Scratch), it was time for Hotch to come out of witness protection and start a new life. Fitting, that.

Thomas Gibson in Criminal Minds

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Related: Criminal Minds is losing a series regular and could face a major cast shake-up

Rather than having to invite actor Thomas Gibson back to shoot his exit scenes, the fate of Hotch finally unravelled off-screen, as the BAU team were told of his retirement.

It was left to Emily Prentiss to break the news, telling the rest of the gang that Hotch will instead be enjoying the life of full-time fatherhood from now on.

Paget Brewster as Prentiss in 'Criminal Minds'

Thomas Gibson, who previously played the series’ leading man, was let go from the long-running drama after an alleged “physical altercation” with a writer on set.

Criminal Minds‘ network CBS, and production company ABC Studios, responded by sacking Gibson, and the character was last seen by fans in season 12.

Gibson told Digital Spy through his spokesperson at the time that he ‘loved’ the show and was sad to leave: “I… have put my heart and soul into it for the last 12 years.

“I had hoped to see it through to the end, but that won’t be possible now. I would just like to say thank you to the writers, producers, actors, our amazing crew, and, most importantly, the best fans that a show could ever hope to have.

Kristen Vangsness as Penelope Garcia, Shemar Moore as Derek Morgan, Joe Mantegna as David Rossi in Criminal Minds S10E01
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M. Cherif Bassiouni, 79, 'father of international criminal law' – The Boston Globe

M. Cherif Bassiouni, 79, ‘father of international criminal law’
Washington Post
Dr. Bassiouni, an Egyptian-American law professor, helped create the International Criminal Court in 1998.
By Harrison Smith

WASHINGTON — M. Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-American law professor who helped create the International Criminal Court in 1998 after having spent decades investigating human rights abuses from apartheid-era South Africa to the former Yugoslavia, died Sept. 25 at his home in Chicago. He was 79.

Daniel Swift, a lawyer who worked in Dr. Bassiouni’s legal practice, said the cause was complications from multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in plasma cells.

Dr. Bassiouni was often called ‘‘the father of international criminal law,’’ although his more-than two dozen books and 256 scholarly articles touched on subjects including citizens’ arrests, juvenile delinquency, international extradition, and the Islamic criminal justice system.

He helped found the International Human Rights Law Institute at DePaul University in Chicago, where he had taught since 1964. In 1972, he founded the Siracusa International Institute for Criminal Justice and Human Rights, a training and research organization in Sicily.

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‘‘There is quite simply nobody like him in the international human rights law systems,’’ said William Schabas, an international law professor at Middlesex University in London. ‘‘When I went to law school in the 1980s, virtually the only writings on the subject of international criminal justice were by him.’’

Much of his work concerned the creation of a world court for international crimes, a venue with jurisdiction over genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Such a court had been a pipe dream since the close of World War I and had existed in temporary form only when Nazi leaders were tried in Nuremberg after World War II.

Yet interest in a global court grew after the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, established in The Hague in 1993 to prosecute crimes committed during the Yugoslav Wars.

Dr. Bassiouni was appointed chairman of a United Nations commission charged with researching the crimes. He led a team that gathered evidence that would be used to indict military and political leaders such as Radovan Karadzic, a Bosnian Serb convicted of genocide and other charges in 2016.

The five-person commission received only limited funding from the United Nations — Dr. Bassiouni eventually secured more than $800,000 in grant money — but identified 151 mass graves and found that rape was used by Serbian forces to terrorize Muslim women in Bosnia. Its searing 84-page report was buttressed by more than 65,000 pages of source material and a 3,300-page appendix, transported to The Hague from Chicago inside a cargo container.

‘‘I was not interested in going after the little soldier who commits the individual crime,’’ Dr. Bassiouni told the Chicago Reader in 1999. ‘‘I was after building a case against the leaders who make the decisions. So I was going to establish that there was ethnic cleansing as a policy, that there was systematic rape as a policy, that there was destruction of cultural property as a policy, that the destruction of Sarajevo was a systematic process.

‘‘What I didn’t realize,’’ he continued, ‘‘was that this was precisely what the British, and to some extent the French and the Russians, did not want.’’

Dr. Bassiouni’s work drew the scorn of some political leaders who were trying to negotiate a peace settlement in the region. He was nearly appointed the tribunal’s main prosecutor, the Times of London reported, but was barred from the position by diplomats who were afraid he would ‘‘move too quickly to charge Serb and possibly Croatian leaders with war crimes,’’ potentially disrupting the peace process.

The tribunal, he later said, was underfunded and underambitious. But it and a similar tribunal, created in response to the Rwandan genocide, laid the groundwork for the International Criminal Court.

That body was formed out of a 1998 gathering in Rome, during which Dr. Bassiouni chaired a UN drafting committee by day and spent his evenings working on a book about crimes against humanity. A resulting treaty that created the court was endorsed by 120 nations and entered into force in 2002, without support from the United States. (Officials in the George W. Bush administration said they were concerned about politically motivated prosecutions and a lack of checks and balances within the ICC.)

Dr. Bassiouni leaves hiswife, Elaine Klemen-Bassiouni; a stepdaughter, Lisa Capitanini; and two grandchildren.

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Neil Gorsuch gave a speech at the Trump International Hotel — and it sparked an uproar

neil gorsuch protest trump hotel

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch sparked an uproar this week by accepting an invitation to speak at a conservative event held at the Washington, DC-based Trump International Hotel, in which the president still holds a financial stake.

Dozens of protesters descended on the hotel Thursday ahead of Gorsuch’s speech, carrying signs with messages like “Gor$uch for sale” and chanting, “Who is Gorsuch? Such a sellout,” Politico reported.

Organizers of the event appeared baffled by the controversy, saying they had booked the hotel before Donald Trump was elected president and Gorsuch was nominated to the Supreme Court.

“We had no political agenda — it’s just a nice hotel and a new venue for us,” Steve Slattery, the spokesman for the conservative Fund for American Studies, told CNN.

But ethics watchdogs, too, cried foul over the speech and questioned whether Gorsuch’s appearance compromised his impartiality — particularly if certain lawsuits against Trump and his businesses eventually make their way to the Supreme Court.

“He’s helping a conservative organization put money into the pockets of the president who put him on the bench. And that doesn’t really give a strong sense of independence from that president,” Elizabeth Wydra, the president of the nonprofit think tank the Constitutional Accountability Center, told NPR.

“You have the Trump hotel at the center of at least three lawsuits filed against President Trump for violating the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause … It’s certainly not a good look.”

The left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center is representing more than 200 members of Congress in their lawsuit against Trump over the emoluments clause, the constitutional provision prohibiting government officials from receiving payments from foreign governments.

That clause had not previously been tested in court against a US president — yet there are now reportedly at least five lawsuits pending in federal courts across the country that claim Trump’s failure to fully divest himself of his businesses violates the emoluments clause.

Gorsuch in his speech did not address the criticisms his appearance had sparked, nor did he refer to Trump’s ownership of the hotel, according to Politico. Instead, he spoke about free-speech rights and civility.

“Those with whom we disagree vehemently still have the best interests of the country at heart,” Gorsuch said. “We have to learn not only to tolerate different points of view but to cherish the din of democracy … It’s not just about good manners and courtesy. It’s about keeping our republic.”

neil gorsuch speech trump hotel

He continued: “To be worthy of our First Amendment freedoms, we have to all adopt certain civil habits that enable others to enjoy them as well.”

Though Gorsuch stipulated that the speech not be used to solicit donations, and he was not paid for his appearance, profits from the event will go to the Trump hotel and even to Trump himself. The president has moved his assets to a trust in his name, meaning he can still profit from his businesses, albeit after he leaves office.

“To the public the Trump Hotel appears simply as what it is: a paid gateway to presidential influence that operates under the color of presidential approval,” a group of officials from liberal organizations such as People for the American Way, Naral, and Planned Parenthood wrote in a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts, urging the court to address the incident.

“Justice Gorsuch, in accepting an invitation to keynote an event, shows disregard for the Court’s ethical standards and traditions, for its sacred reputation, and, bluntly, for basic common sense.”

SEE ALSO: Michelle Obama says women who voted against Hillary Clinton ‘voted against their own voice’

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Criminal Minds season 13 premiere delivers a new twist on Hotch's fate – DigitalSpy.com

Latest News
Thomas Gibson in Criminal Minds

Warning: Spoilers for Criminal Minds‘ season 13 premiere are ahead.

Despite a number of hiccups along the way, Criminal Minds is finally back on our screens for season 13 – and it’s been busy tying up all those loose, character-based ends.

Specifically how to solve a problem like Special Agent Aaron Hotchner.

Following the death of Hotch’s arch-enemy Peter Lewis (AKA Scratch), it was time for Hotch to come out of witness protection and start a new life. Fitting, that.

Thomas Gibson in Criminal Minds

Advertisement – Continue Reading Below

Related: Criminal Minds is losing a series regular and could face a major cast shake-up

Rather than having to invite actor Thomas Gibson back to shoot his exit scenes, the fate of Hotch finally unravelled off-screen, as the BAU team were told of his retirement.

It was left to Emily Prentiss to break the news, telling the rest of the gang that Hotch will instead be enjoying the life of full-time fatherhood from now on.

Paget Brewster as Prentiss in 'Criminal Minds'

Thomas Gibson, who previously played the series’ leading man, was let go from the long-running drama after an alleged “physical altercation” with a writer on set.

Criminal Minds‘ network CBS, and production company ABC Studios, responded by sacking Gibson, and the character was last seen by fans in season 12.

Gibson told Digital Spy through his spokesperson at the time that he ‘loved’ the show and was sad to leave: “I… have put my heart and soul into it for the last 12 years.

“I had hoped to see it through to the end, but that won’t be possible now. I would just like to say thank you to the writers, producers, actors, our amazing crew, and, most importantly, the best fans that a show could ever hope to have.

Kristen Vangsness as Penelope Garcia, Shemar Moore as Derek Morgan, Joe Mantegna as David Rossi in Criminal Minds S10E01
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Court: Separate civil, criminal 'stand your ground' cases – The News Herald

The case involves an incident at a Tampa bar in which a man was attacked without provocation, then hit his assailant in the face with a cocktail glass.

TALLAHASSEE — Winning a “stand your ground” hearing to avoid criminal prosecution in Florida doesn’t automatically grant immunity from civil suits, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a case over a bar fight.

Despite language in state law that gives civil liability protections to people who use force to defend themselves, a hearing that finds someone immune from criminal prosecution can’t be applied in civil court, the ruling says.

The case involves an incident at a Tampa bar in which Ketan Kumar attacked Nirav Patel without provocation, according to court documents. Patel responded by hitting Kumar in the face with a cocktail glass, causing Kumar to permanently lose sight in his left eye. Patel was charged with felony battery, but was granted immunity under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows people to use force to defend themselves.

Then Kumar sued Patel, and Patel’s lawyer said the case should be thrown out because of protections in the law. An appeals court agreed.

But the Supreme Court said a separate immunity process is required for civil cases. Among the reasons: The Legislature never clearly stated that one hearing would cover both criminal and civil cases, the law spells out that civil plaintiffs have to pay defendants’ legal fees if defendants successfully argue they acted in self-defense, and a new law last year created a different burden of proof in criminal cases.

Patel’s lawyer expressed surprise, saying the Legislature intended to protect people who use self-defense from all court proceedings, not to make them defend their actions twice.

“Immunity is immunity — you either have it or you don’t. It’s like you’re pregnant or you’re not pregnant,” Steve Romine said.

Romine said he is confident Patel will prevail in the civil “stand your ground” hearing, too. He said Kumar approached Patel and punched him in the face without saying anything and with no warning, and Patel simply reacted as anyone would to protect himself. He said the two men had never met and never spoken before the unprovoked attack.

“The end result here is fine for my client, it’s just now that he’s going to have to endure the hassle and time and cost of having another hearing,” Romine said. “Now we’re going to take up court time again and we’re going to take up his time and everybody else’s time to re-litigate something that I think the Legislature never intended to happen.”

Kumar’s lawyer didn’t return a message seeking comment.

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Here's how Mexican cartels actually operate in the United States

Donald Trump Long Island cops police speech

  • The Trump administration has zeroed in on the threat of drugs and crime.
  • But the relationship between transnational drug traffickers and gangs in the US is complex and varied.
  • Policies that don’t account for those relationships are likely to fail.

President Donald Trump repeatedly referenced the threat of drugs and violence brought to the US by Mexican cartels during his presidential campaign.

Less than a month into office, he signed an executive order directing the federal government to “thwart transnational criminal organizations” and calling for the removal of foreigners involved in those organizations.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said repeatedly he plans to go after the illegal drug trade to bring down violent crime, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement has increased arrests of undocumented immigrants, expanding their search to those who were not previously targeted for removal.

But since Trump took office, his and Session’s focus seems to be less on transnational criminal groups like Mexican drug cartels and more on criminal groups active in the US — specifically MS-13, formed in the US in the 1980s by Central American immigrants who were deported to their home countries in the 1990s, where the gang expanded rapidly.

But their response to MS-13 doesn’t appear to be backed throughout the law-enforcement community.

Acting Drug Enforcement Administration chief Chuck Rosenberg and other DEA officials considered Mexican cartels more dangerous because of their financing and organizational complexity. Police chiefs from areas most affected by MS-13’s presence have said Trump’s policies would have a negative impact on efforts against the gang.

Sessions and Trump have not backed off their positions, and Rosenberg reportedly plans to leave the DEA on October 1.

What policies his successor pursues remain to be seen, but any effort to combat the drug trade by going after gangs and cartels will need to account for the distinct roles those organizations play in that lucrative and resilient trade.

‘It’s a very complicated link’

Coast Guard drugs

Authorities in the US regularly make drug-related arrests of individuals linked to Mexican criminal organizations.

In January, two Washington men were arrested in a drug sting that began with one of them claiming to work for Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a top leader in the Sinaloa cartel. In February, an investigation in North Carolina led to the arrests of three people allegedly “in direct communication” with Mexican drug traffickers.

In March, suspects who were allegedly part of an organization linked to the Zetas cartel were arrested in relation to marijuana fields in eastern Texas.In June, seven peopled linked to the Sinaloa cartel were indicted in Los Angeles.

The suspects in these cases may well all be linked to Mexican drug cartels, but links don’t necessarily mean membership or a direct role in that cartel’s operations.

“I think everyone agrees that Mexican drug cartels have far-reaching supply chains in both directions,” from the Andes to the US, David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego, told Business Insider this spring. “Where there’s disagreement is the extent to which Mexican drug traffickers are engaged in retail or mid-level control of the drug industry in the United States.”

drugs mexico cartels

“What is an operative?” said Shirk, who is director of USD’s Justice in Mexico program.

“Are we talking about, like, your man in Durango, Colorado, who’s sort of reporting directly back to ‘Chapo’ Guzman, or are we talking about basically the fact that there’s someone who has a connection in that small town that is able to move drugs or obtain drugs from a Mexican supplier?”

Mexican cartels have extensive control over the production and transportation process for illegal drugs into the US — the cartels’ raison d’etre is getting drugs over borders, Shirk noted.

But much of the retail trade is handled by street gangs and other criminal groups in the US, according to the DEA’s 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment.

“The cartels use gang members. They use individuals that are living here in the United States to basically do the distribution and the logistics here in the United States,” Mike Vigil, former director of international operations for the DEA, told Business Insider earlier this year.

Many of those groups have a common language and background with the cartels and have built partnerships on shared geographic, linguistic, or ethnic lines, but they are not necessarily controlled or directed by those cartels.

Drug deals on US streets, and the violence done to enforce them, are the prerogative of US gangs, not the cartels.

Police immigration gang tattoo arrest

DEA assessments have painted broad swaths of the US as territory under the control of Mexican cartels — chief among them the Sinaloa cartel, an embattled organization previously run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. However, cartel territorial control is likely defined much more loosely in the US than in Mexico, based on presence alone rather than on deeper operational ties and control.

“It’s a very complicated link, a chain with many links in it, and it starts with very concentrated monopoly cartel control in Mexico, and eventually it filters down to street-corner sales,” Howard Campbell, an anthropologist at the University of Texas at El Paso, told Business Insider in an interview this spring.

“I think it’s fair to say that Mexican drug cartels are the most powerful drug-dealing groups in the United States,” Campbell added, “except that their effect is more indirect and delivering drugs to the street dealers.”

This “indirect control” gives them some influence over street-level dealers, Campbell said, but it may not mean those cartels have much or any on-the-ground presence in the US.

‘Old friends from the neighborhood’

Aryan Brotherhood

Law-enforcement agencies continue to connect local gangs to cartels, even as the nature of those connections remains unclear, according to the National Gang Intelligence Center’s 2015 report.

The Bloods and Crips, for example, have been linked to the Gulf and Zetas cartels, which are now bitter rivals.

The Texas branch of the Aryan Brotherhood, a white-supremacist organization, has been linked to the Gulf cartel and the Juarez cartel.

MS-13 — a transnational gang with a significant presence in the US but without the structure or power needed for transnational drug trafficking — has been tied to the Zetas and the Gulf cartels as well as the Sinaloa cartel.

Mexican cartels have also worked closely with non-gang organizations to distribute drugs in the US, but in these cases cartels also appear to maintain some distance from the retail trade and other on-the-ground activity.

Chicago — where six major interstate highways put drugs within a day’s drive of 70% of the US population — has become a particularly important hub of drug trafficking and illustrates how Mexican criminal organizations can operate in the US but remain separate from the domestic criminal landscape.

Pedro Flores and Margarito Flores Jr., two twins who ran a large Chicago-area drug-distribution ring, were very close to Sinaloa cartel members and sourced their product from Sinaloa, but their Chicago operation had little connection to Chicago gangs.

Pedro and Margarito Flores

Rather than employ gang members, the twins used “old friends from the neighborhood,” Jason McGahan wrote for Chicago Magazine in 2013. (The brothers were sentenced to 14 years in prison on drug charges in 2015, getting reduced sentences for cooperation with the US government.)

Chicago has one of the country’s largest Latino populations, and cartels do have organizations in the city that “supply mainly Latino gangs largely through kinship connections,” John Hagedorn, a criminology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told PolitiFact.

But the links between groups like the Flores brothers and street-level gangs responsible for much of the drug sales and violence in Chicago are a “gray area” of the drug trade, both law enforcement and gang members have said.

“This is far more complicated than a bunch of Mexicans getting together and bringing drugs into Chicago,” a senior Latin Kings gang member told Chicago Magazine in 2013.

Trump and Sessions have also pledged to crack down on “sanctuary cities” — localities that don’t always comply with every aspect of federal immigration law — as a way of getting at drug traffickers and gangs.

But the existence of such jurisdictions likely has little effect on the activities of transnational criminal groups in the US.

‘It’s called transnational for a reason’

US Mexico border patrol marijuana drug seizure bust

Asked in late June about the effect sanctuary-city policies have on efforts to combat transnational organized crime, Flordia Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he didn’t believe getting rid of them would solve the problem such groups posed.

“These are intricate networks of distribution that include Americans on this side of the border that are part of their network,” Rubio said during an event at the American Enterprise Institute. “The cross-border operation may involve nationals of other countries, but once it gets to I-10 and comes east toward the southern states and up north on 95 … those are American organized crime groups that are helping with the distribution internally.”

“It’s called transnational for a reason, and that is these are intricate networks and organizations that operation across borders, using nationals from multiple countries, including distributors at the state and local level that are Americans,” Rubio added. “The typical heroin dealer in the United States is not from some other country. It is someone who lives here.”

Cartels cede operations in the US to these local or regional groups for a number of reasons.

dea drug seizure

To try to staff the all the major distribution points in the US would strain the manpower that cartels can muster.

Moreover, while cartels exist to and excel at getting drugs over the border, moving those drugs around the US and selling them is a different matter.

When operating in the US, “they’re competing against lots of low-level and individual operations that are able to be involved in the exact same business” without needing the same level of sophistication or resources, Shirk said.

“There are really significant diminishing returns for major Mexican drug-cartel operations to try to develop retail operations in the United States,” he added.

This is not to say cartel members and cartel operations are not present in the US.

‘A totally different business model north of the border’

US authorities also believe Mexican cartels have set up grow operations in parts of the US, like Northern California or in Wisconsin, where a hunter found an allegedly Sinaloa cartel-run marijuana farm with 10,000 plants and armed guards in 2012. Cartel members (some of whom resettled after cooperating with the US government) and their relatives live in the US — sometimes in the same neighborhoods as the agents who once pursued them.

“It’s also true that many of the major drug cartels have personal and maybe even business interests in the United States,” Shirk told Business Insider. “They have bank accounts, and they have family members, and other dealings in the United States that lead them to come across the border.”

Traffickers have also exchanged gunfire with US border agents — several times in 2017 already and, in a well-known incident, in the 2010 shootout that killed US agent Brian Terry.

mexico border patrol

These incidents usually occur relatively close to the border, typically when border agents encounter a smuggling operation in progress. Other violence — cartel-style killings in San Diego and assassinations in Dallas — have usually been limited to people with ties to cartels. (Deaths have also resulted from suspected cases of mistaken identity.)

Violent clashes with traffickers along the border are a danger, said Vigil, former DEA international-operations chief, “because they’re going to engage to protect their valuable cargo, and the fact is that they know they can turn around and get back into Mexico.”

It is likely “just a military tactic to fend off the border patrol or law enforcement long enough to be able to make it back into Mexico safe with their drug loads intact and then try another day,” Vigil added.

“It’s largely a defensive posture,” Campbell, of the University of Texas at El Paso, said of such incidents. “That is, drug traffickers are interested in making money, not control, per se, [of] US territory, and they don’t want violent encounters with US law enforcement.”

Though they may have some freedom to operate in remote areas on the border, Campbell said, in general Mexican traffickers in the US appear to work hard to avoid American authorities.

A Customs and Border Protection vehicle patrols near the Rio Grande along the U.S.-Mexico border near Mission, Texas July 24, 2014.  REUTERS/Eric Gay/Pool

“They have almost a paranoia about US law enforcement, because Mexican law enforcement is completely corruptible, and so when the cartel people get busted in Mexico, they can either shoot their way out or buy their way out or something,” he told Business Insider.

“But I feel like Mexican drug traffickers have an almost exaggerated respect for US law enforcement, so … they tread very lightly in the US.”

The cartels themselves are primarily interested in selling drugs, not fomenting violence or fighting to control territory in the US, Shirk said.

Amid the horrendous violence meted out by cartels in Mexico over the last decade, much of it in northern Mexico, US border communities — cities like El Paso and San Diego — have been among the safest places in the US.

Between 2008 and 2012 — when the Sinaloa cartel waged a bloody fight with the Juarez cartel for control of Ciudad Juarez, making that city one of the most violent places on earth — homicide rates in El Paso, right across the border, fluctuated between 2.8 and 3.4 homicides per 100,000 people, falling as low as 0.8 per 100,000 in 2010.

San Diego, right across the border from Tijuana, which is also a lucrative and contested trafficking territory, had an average homicide rate of 3.7 per 100,000 people between 2001 and 2015.

The national annual homicide rate over the last decade and half has averaged 5.2 per 100,000 people, according to FBI data.

“There’s a totally different business model north of the border,” Shirk said, “and a totally different kind of context in terms of law enforcement north of the border.”

San Diego San Ysidro Mexico border crossing minivan

“These are transnational criminal organizations, and they operate on both sides of the border, and the only question is how they structure their operations, how they structure their business,” Shirk told Business Insider. “We have a very, I think, murky picture of how that works.”

Though questions remain about the nature of the activities in the US, major trafficking organizations have proven resilient in the face of pressure from law enforcement, as have the gangs that distribute those drugs in US markets.

Dismantling a gang like MS-13 would likely do little to permanently halt drug-distribution networks in the US. With transnational drug traffickers still seeking access to the lucrative US market — especially in light of a cocaine boom in Colombia that US officials worry could spur a rise in US consumption (though that increase is yet to be seen) — another local partner would soon appear.

“And if Mexican suppliers stopped bringing cocaine, heroin, and other drugs and synthetics and so forth into the country, those local feeder operations would be temporarily starved until they found suppliers from other places,” Shirk said, pointing to how Mexican traffickers assumed the mantle of weakening Colombian groups in the 1990s.

“In general drug-trafficking cartels are not a violent threat to US society or to the US military or the border patrol or US security,” Campbell told Business Insider. “It’s the subversion of the drugs themselves.”

SEE ALSO: US officials are raising alarm over Colombia’s cocaine boom, but they may be ‘missing most of the picture’

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Why the 'Criminal Minds' Season 13 Premiere Took the Easy Way out After the Car Crash Cliffhanger – BuddyTV (blog)

Criminal Minds ended season 12 with six members of the BAU — JJ, Prentiss, Rossi, Tara, Luke and Stephen — in a car crash, thanks to a trap set by Mr. Scratch, and not all of them survived. With a cliffhanger like that, in which most of the cast is put into a life-threatening situation, there have to be some sort of consequences. But were there enough?

Yes, the Team Lost a Member, But …

Picking up right where the finale left off, the premiere immediately let us know who survived, who was injured and who was missing after the truck barreled into the two SUVs. Stephen was dead. JJ, Rossi and Tara were injured. Luke was moving around well enough that we never see him needing any medical assistance. And Prentiss was missing.

Over the summer, it was announced that Damon Gupton would not be returning as Stephen Walker, so it was just a matter of seeing how he’d be written out, and it turned out his character would leave the show in a body bag. In a way, they took the easy way out by killing him off. They wanted severe consequences. They wanted there to be some sort of impact on the team. They knew Stephen would no longer be around.

But he was just introduced last season, and while it may be unfair, he’s just not as close to the others and viewers aren’t going to feel his loss like they would if they had killed off JJ, Rossi or Prentiss. (Tara seems to straddle that line of being with the team long enough to miss and being too new, and Luke too joined last season.)

We even got the cliche “it could have been me,” with JJ revealing that she was supposed to take the backseat, so yes, she could have been the one killed. But even so, it didn’t even feel like it would have necessarily ended the same way if she had been sitting there; instead, it likely would have played out the same way, no matter what: Stephen dead and JJ alive.

And while the moments with Stephen’s wife were touching, I chalked that up to Tracie Thoms’ performance. Unfortunately, we didn’t see nearly enough of her last season to get to know her, her relationship with Stephen or her relationship with the team. That was made obvious since Will appeared as well, and his conversation with JJ reminded us just how long they’ve been together and we saw him staying with Rossi and then being with the team talking to Tara in the hospital. Yes, Monica had just lost her husband, but these scenes emphasized just how different the relationships between the team and members’ spouses are.  

No PT Necessary?

At first, it seemed like Luke, who looked to be doing better than Reid even though he was in the car crash and Spencer wasn’t, was the only one walking away uninjured. And in a way, he was. Rossi, JJ and Tara all needed to be treated at the hospital, and thanks to Scratch’s delusion, it looked like months of PT were in Prentiss’ future. It was easy to see how a time jump between the premiere and episode 2 could be used to take care of any recovery time so that the team could get back to work on regular cases.

Criminal Minds Season 13 Premiere Recap: Prentiss’ Nerve-Racking Visit with Mr. Scratch>>>

Instead, by the end of the episode, everyone looked physically ready to return to work, save for a bandage or two. But emotionally, psychologically, this team needed time off, and they got it. That means the only question is how we’ll see them when they come back from that break. Will Prentiss be over Scratch getting into her head more than she liked? Will Reid be back to figuring things out in 60 seconds and not 60 minutes? Will Luke have run a marathon? Just kidding on that last one, since he’ll need to deal with the fact that he let Scratch fall to his death, but you have to admit that the guy looked like he hadn’t been in the crash at all.

It’s strange to think that other than Stephen’s death, no one was left needing any sort of physical therapy (at least that we know of since the focus of the premiere was Prentiss’ kidnapping, finding Scratch and Stephen’s funeral) or more time in the hospital. Rossi had surgery, but I couldn’t even tell you what his leg injury was exactly.

Reid’s PTSS

Something done well in the premiere was Reid’s PTSS — and as Luke pointed out, it is PTSS, not PTSD because it’s an injury, and really, it’s an injury that hobbled him more than most of the team’s injuries post-crash. It took him 60 minutes instead of 60 seconds to figure out what Prentiss and Stephen had been talking about in text messages they sent to lure out Scratch. Reid admitted to Luke that he would kill, not arrest Scratch.

What happened to Reid last season changed him, and I have to admit, I can get behind seeing more of the Reid from the premiere (maybe minus the book-throwing) this season if it means that they truly explore what his time in prison has done to him.

What did you think of the resolution of that finale cliffhanger? Are you going to miss Stephen? Are you looking forward to seeing how Reid’s experience last season and PTSS changes him?

Criminal Minds season 13 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on CBS. Want more news? Like our Criminal Minds Facebook page.

(Image courtesy of CBS)

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Veteran criminal defense attorney opens own office – Spokane Journal of Business

Of all the reasons to be in a courtroom, being there to defend a client is one of the best, contends J. Brendan Kidd, owner of Spokane-based criminal justice firm, Kidd Defense PLLC.

“My job is to fight, and I see that as a great position to be in,” he says. “I’m not there to judge the client, I’m there to mount the best defense possible.”

Established last December, Kidd Defense PLLC is located at 901 N. Adams, a former residence Kidd co-owns with veteran Spokane defense attorney Tim Note. 

The two established what they now call the Grace Law Center in the 2,800-square-foot building, which sits at the northwest corner of Adams Street and Mallon Avenue, a block northwest of the Spokane County Courthouse.

Kidd and Note each operate their respective practices in offices on the first floor, and lease the upper level’s three office spaces to other attorneys. 

Although Kidd and Note share one subcontracted office assistant, he says his practice doesn’t otherwise employ any other staff or associates.

Kidd Defense covers all aspects of criminal defense, including DUI, felonies, domestic violence, post-sentencing, and drug, property, and sex crimes.

Licensed to practice in Washington, Kidd says the majority of his cases are based in Spokane, Stevens, and Whitman counties, and most of his clients are referred to him by fellow attorneys or former clients.

Although he always enjoyed studying the law, Kidd admits he didn’t originally see himself becoming a criminal defense attorney. 

 “It’s a fast-paced job, and I’d say a bit more personal than how it’s portrayed on TV,” he says. “But at the end of the day, I feel like I’m able to connect with clients regardless of the crime they’re accused of.”

Originally from Roblin, Manitoba, Kidd earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Iowa State University and his law degree from Gonzaga University. 

The 35-year-old spent his first 10 years as an attorney working for Cooney Law Offices PS before starting his own practice. 

“Cooney was a great firm, but they’re also family run,” he says. “It was important to me be able to experience owning my own firm.”

Last year, Kidd was selected for the National Trial Lawyers Top 40 under 40 listing. He also was also named a Top Lawyer in Criminal Defense by Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine.

Kidd says he doesn’t charge clients an hourly rate, preferring instead to determine a flat fee based on the work involved in each case. 

“If I had to estimate an hourly rate, I’d say it’s probably somewhere around $250 an hour,” he says. 

Although he declines to disclose his firm’s annual billings, Kidd did say things are going well so far. 

“We’re off to a good start, with business above where I expected us to be,” he says. “This line of work tends to follow levels of law enforcement staffing, so things do vary a bit depending on the season.”

Kidd estimates he usually has up to 50 open cases at any given time, and completes between 100 and 150 cases total each year. 

Kidd says the most common types of cases he sees are DUIs, which he says can sometimes be more complex to defend than most people think.

He says DUI cases usually take between four and six months to resolve, because each includes court appearances and large amounts of evidence, as well as a Department of Licensing administrative process. 

“The initial hearing covers release conditions and the scheduling of a second court date,” he says. “Meanwhile, there’s an investigation into the client’s history of drug and alcohol use, and a determination of whether or not they’ll lose their license.” 

Kidd says DUI case outcomes range from total dismissal of charges on up to jail time and fees. He says the majority of clients who are convicted of a DUI usually do end up losing their license for a time. 

“It’s all driven by the facts of the case and the client’s prior history,” he says.  

He says being familiar with the network of prosecutors and judges that try DUI cases also is helpful when negotiating on behalf of his clients. 

“For some clients losing their license is a career ender, so it’s important to be able to find a solution that works for everyone,” he says. 

Kidd says another tool that can be useful for both sides in trying a case, particularly DUI cases, is video technology. 

“Over the years, we’ve begun to see more and more technology-based discovery,” he says. “It takes longer to review cases, but overall that information can be very useful to both sides.”

Kidd says that at least half of the DUI cases he works on use video from dashboard or body cameras in legal proceedings. 

Kidd says this past July, the state of Washington made changes to the laws concerning DUI offenses. Under the new law, an offender’s fourth DUI in 10 years counts as a felony, and such an offender can be sent to prison for more than a year rather than serving a shorter sentence in county jail. 

“It used to be the fifth DUI in 10 years counts as a felony,” he says. “The change is a cost saving measure, as you start to see second time offenders being given house arrest rather than jail time, and those who’ve offended more times going straight to prison rather than county jails.”

Kidd says in recent years, the demand for private attorneys has decreased, with most clients choosing to work with public defenders.

“I’d say only about 40 percent of people hire private attorneys,” he says. “Public defenders are more readily available. They’re also free (to the offender), so you’ll see lots of people who’ll chose that route because it’s easier and less expensive.”

Kidd says on average, most DUI cases cost a client between $2,000 and $3,000, with possible additional fees if the case goes to trial. 

“Of course, the more serious the charges, the higher the cost will be—likewise, if we need to hire an expert witness or special investigator,” he says.

Kidd says the advantage to hiring a private attorney is that clients are able to choose someone they’re comfortable with, who has more time to devote to case research. 

“We can’t guarantee a better outcome, but we do have more time to spend because of the smaller case volume (than a public defender),” he says. “We’re able to pay attention to more details and plan for various outcomes.”

While most of the cases he tries are DUI related, Kidd says the rest are usually a mix of various felonies, including misdemeanors, assault, domestic violence, sex, and property crimes. 

“Crime is cyclical,” he says. “Which type you see the most of at any given time can depend on what season it is and other factors.” 

Anecdotally, Kidd says he doesn’t feel crime in Spokane has increased much over the years he’s been in practice.  

“I wouldn’t say crime has gone up a whole lot,” he says. “I have noticed an increase in overall filings for felony offenses since Larry Haskell became Spokane County’s prosecuting attorney. Some of those cases had been on the back burner for a while, but he’s gotten things moving again.” 

Looking ahead, Kidd says he doesn’t have immediate plans to grow his firm, rather his main goal is to expand into different practice areas. 

“I may eventually add more staff or a second attorney,” he says. “But my current goal is to be able to try federal cases.”

While most district and state court cases are routine and smaller, Kidd says federal cases often involve far more man hours, and as such most are appointed. 

“Most federal cases that are tried here are larger drug conspiracies or cases of government fraud,” he says. “But having the diversity of being able to try those cases would be a good thing for my business going forward.” 

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The Trump administration will drop the refugee cap to 45,000 — the lowest in decades

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The Trump administration announced Wednesday it will reduce the number of refugees resettled in the United States in the 2018 fiscal year to 45,000.

That cap is the lowest ceiling on refugee admissions since the 1980 creation of the Refugee Act, which gave the president the power to determine refugee admission levels.

The quota will include regional caps of 19,000 for Africa, 17,500 for the Near East and South Asia, 5,000 for East Asia, 2,000 for Europe and Central Asia, and 1,500 for Latin America and the Caribbean, the State Department said in a briefing to Congress, according to the Associated Press.

Trump administration officials told reporters on Wednesday that the new cap will enhance national security and ensure the refugees who are admitted are screened properly. The officials added that new screening and resettlement requirements for refugees will soon be announced.

Trump, within his first days in office, had already dramatically reduced the refugee cap to 50,000 from the 110,000 President Barack Obama sought to admit for fiscal year 2017. The New York Times had first reported last week that Trump was mulling whether to reduce the cap for fiscal year 2018 to a figure below 50,000.

Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, one of the staunchest immigration hardliners remaining in the White House, had reportedly pushed for a cap as low as 15,000, according to the Times. Homeland Security officials, meanwhile, recommended at a recent meeting that the limit be lowered to 40,000.

Axios reported on Monday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had signed off on a memo recommending that admissions be capped at 45,000.

Refugee resettlement organizations in the US have expressed dismay at the news. They had been pushing the Trump administration to set next year’s refugee cap at at least 75,000, and said a further reduction in admission levels would drain their resources and force the shuttering of many resettlement programs.

“Reports of a ceiling as low as 45,000 are deeply troubling at a time of global crisis,” Hans Van de Weerd of the International Rescue Committee said in a statement on Tuesday, following media reports that the 45,000-refugee cap would soon be announced.

“The decision to arbitrarily slash refugees admitted would represent a sad day for America, and a bad day for the world’s refugees. Setting a record-low cap on refugee resettlement, the White House is showing a stunning cruelty toward those fleeing our common enemies — enemies who intend to paint the US as indifferent to refugees’ suffering.”

SEE ALSO: A Trump adviser told DACA recipients to ‘get in line’ to immigrate to the US — here’s why they can’t

DON’T MISS: How a plan to resettle 100 Syrian refugees ripped apart a small Vermont town

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