Saturday, December 18, 2010

Knox & Sollecito Get Early Christmas Present

The final hearing of 2010 took place today in Perugia, Italy for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito’s appeal. Amanda Knox entered the courtroom fearing the worst; walking-in with her head down, she was seen greeting a friend. Knox’s lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, took his normal stance before court, telling journalists that the case against her was “full of gray areas” and that it was “a huge miscarriage of justice.”

Last week Knox and Sollecito’s lawyers asked the appellate court in Perugia to overturn their murder convictions, requesting new witnesses and a complete review of the forensic evidence used against them in the original criminal trial. The defense maintains that DNA traces presented at the first trial were inconclusive and also contends they might have been contaminated when they were analyzed. Prosecutor Giancarlo Costagliola had opposed the review request as “useless,” asserting that “this court has all the elements to be able to come to a decision.” Kercher’s family lawyer, Francesco Maresca, insisted that there is no need to review the forensics. “We have heard this all before,” Maresca told the court. “If we don’t trust the state’s analysis of forensic evidence, we’ll have to reconsider every trial.”

After just over an hour in his chambers, Judge Claudio Pratillo Hellmen, assistant judge-Massimo Zanetti, and the six-person jury told the court that, in the interest of justice, they do need an independent review of at least some of the key forensic evidence—a bra clasp with Sollecito’s DNA and a kitchen knife with Knox’s DNA on the handle, and what the prosecution contends is Kercher’s on the blade. “If possible, the tests must be redone,” Judge Hellmen told the court. “If they can’t be re-tested, then the procedures must be closely examined.” The judge appointed two experts from Rome’s Sapienza University (Professors Stefano Conti and Carla Vecchiotti) to review the evidence. The experts will be formally given the task at the trial’s next session on 15 Jan. 2011.

The judge also asked to hear several witnesses from the criminal trial including homeless man Antonio Curatolo, who testified that he saw Knox and Sollecito gazing over the house where Kercher was killed late the night of the murder. During the criminal trial, Curatolo testified that he also saw other students on a bus that night coming from a disco in town. Lawyers for Sollecito maintain that there was no disco that night, and that Curatolo was confused. Helmen wants to hear from the manager of the disco and the bus driver. This is important because Curatolo's testimony otherwise appeared concise, reliable, and very clearly articulated.

Helmen denied a request to examine a pillowcase found under Kercher’s body that had the footprint in blood that the prosecution attributed to Knox. That pillowcase also had a spot of semen that had never been tested. The defense wants the spot tested to see whose it is, but the prosecution maintains that it likely belonged to Kercher’s boyfriend Giacomo Silenzi. The judge decided that it was not relevant in this murder. The judge also denied the reexamination of the time of Kercher’s death. He reserved the right to call two witnesses the defense insists will set their clients free. The first is Mario Alessi, a convicted child killer who says Guede told him that Knox and Sollecito had nothing to do with the murder. The second is Luciano Aviello, a Camorra mobster who says his brother is the real assassin. The judge may or may not call these two witnesses.

Although today’s decision seemed like a glimmer of hope for the Knox and Sollecito camps, there is bad news to report for them as well. Two days ago Italy’s highest criminal court upheld the conviction and 16-year-prison sentence of the third person convicted in the murder, Rudy Guede of the Ivory Coast. The high court’s ruling, which cannot be appealed, is significant because it states that Guede took part in the slaying but did not act alone, prosecutors and lawyers said.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tearful Beginning: Knox up to Old Tricks

Today was the first formal hearing in the appeal against conviction for Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito. No one is sure just how long the trial will be, but one thing is for sure; Amanda Knox has had enough of prison living. Knox, now 23, broke down several times as she delivered an emotional twenty-minute address to the court; her voice sometimes quavering as she claimed that she had nothing to do with Miss Kercher’s brutal death. Her nervous, rambling statement—reminiscent of the court address she made at her 4th preliminary hearing back on 18 October 2008—was once again a limited, evasive, non-explanation of an explanation. It was an “I didn’t do it but I am so sorry for Meredith and her family anyway” kind of address. The fragile yet defiant Knox insisted that she did not kill Kercher and pled with the judge and jury to give her back her “shattered life,” calling her conviction unjust and an “enormous mistake.”

On 2 December 2010, Meredith Kercher’s (the victim), father, John Kercher, wrote a letter in which he made a strong plea for the cruel, callous, and inaccurate PR games, of Knox’s family, to stop. The well informed Kercher family has remained singularly cool-headed, dignified, and truthful throughout. On the other hand, the Knox family has continued to lie about the basic facts of the case; and unlike Edda Mellas, Knox’s mother, they have read Judge Massei’s sentencing report.

During Knox’s address to the court, Kercher family lawyer, Francesco Maresca walked out of the courtroom. Maresca later said he left because he wasn’t interested in comments he felt were “inappropriate, out of place and untimely.”

She went on to apologize to the Congolese bar owner, Patrick Lumumba, who spent nearly three weeks in jail after Knox told police he had killed Kercher. Lumumba was later cleared of all connection to the crime.

“Patrick: I'm sorry,” she said, turning in the direction of the courtroom where he was sitting with his lawyers. “I was naive and not at all courageous because I should have put up with the pressure that pushed me to hurt you. You didn't deserve what you went through and I hope you are able to find your peace.”

In a break after Knox’s statement, Lumumba told reporters that he felt her apology lacked sincerity, however. “If she had said it to me in the first weeks, after I got out of isolation, and we were both going in front of the judge, well then I would have believed her. But now, three years later, well, it seems like strategy. It's as if she's playing a card game and she's losing, so she’s playing every card she's got.”

Knox’s lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, in his formal requests later in the day, asked for a complete review of “dubious” forensics in the case, and criticized the first judge’s sentencing report as full of personal reflections and conjecture that resulted in “perhaps one of the biggest judicial errors to happen here in recent years.”

Lawyers for Knox and Sollecito requested the court hear testimony from two new witnesses, convicted child killer Mario Alessi, who was housed in a prison cell across from Rudy Guede and says he heard another version of what happened, and mafia snitch Luciano Aviello, who claims his own brother killed Kercher and asked him to hide the murder weapon. On Friday, Perugia police raided Aviello’s prison cell on the grounds that Aviello is slandering his brother with a false homicide accusation. Italian newspapers hinted that police had sequestered documents or letters from Aviello’s cell that show his story was fabricated, but the matter was not brought up in court.

The prosecution and civil parties give their arguments next Saturday (Dec. 18). Knox’s appellate trial is expected to last for several months, with hearings held only on Saturdays.

See video footage of today's hearing

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving in Perugia: Knox’s Appeal Begins

Amanda Knox and Raffale Sollecito came face-to-face today (technically Wednesday) for the first time since they had been convicted of murdering Meredith Kercher back in December 2009.

Wearing a pale blue sweater against the damp autumn chill, Knox entered the court for her first appeal session looking more serious, as opposed to her carefree demeanor during her original trial.

Presiding judge Claudio Pratillo Hellman (with assistant judge Massimo Zanetti) swore in the jury of five women and one man, then promptly made his first decision: hearings just once a week—on Saturdays—to accommodate Sollecito’s high profile attorney Giulia Bongiorno (a key Italian parliamentarian and head of the justice commission who recently revealed she is several months pregnant).

Under Italian law, anything can happen in the appeals process, from complete acquittal, to conviction on lesser charge such as manslaughter, to an even harsher sentence if convicted again.

Knox’s appeal is built largely around a request for an independent review of forensic evidence (in particular the DNA evidence from the knife that prosecutors say was the murder weapon).

Prosecutors are also appealing the extenuating circumstances granted to Knox and Sollecito, in hopes that they’ll be handed down a life sentence.

This time, the trial stars “three” prosecutors: Giancarlo Costagliola, and the two from the trial, Giuliano Mignini and Manuela Comodi. Mr. Costagliola, the newest prosecutor, will lead the team.

The long awaited appeal is finally here, and the first session was over quite quickly: lasting only about 15 minutes. The defense asked for a postponement until Dec. 11, so “the trial could begin in an atmosphere of tranquility and serenity,” and the prosecution agreed. Judge Hellman granted the request, and fixed hearing dates for Dec. 11, 18 and Jan. 15, for now.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Knox Indicted for Slander

Well, the script may be written, but the story is far from over. 23-year-old Amanda Knox was indicted today on slander charges stemming from her allegations that she was struck by police during her 2007 interrogation/arrest. Police denied misconduct and filed charges saying Knox’s comments were slanderous.

Knox was driven to the courthouse in a police van with darkened windows. The hearing was closed to the public, but photographers were able to get a glimpse of her in the courtroom hallways. Looking thinner and drawn, Knox wore a dark green sweater and black pants, her hair is a jaw-length bob, and she looked to have gained weight.

Judge Claudia Matteini issued the indictment ruling after a hearing behind closed-doors today in Perugia. Judge Matteini scheduled the trial to begin on 17 May 2011. “I didn't mean to offend or slander anybody,” Knox said, as she broke out into tears. “I reiterate, I was only trying to defend myself. I was exercising a right.” If she is convicted, Knox could face an extra six years in prison.

Knox will be back in court in Perugia on 24 November for the first of two appeals against her sentence that she is permitted by Italian law, along with her former Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito; who was sentenced to 25 years for his role in the murder of Meredith Kercher. Knox’s lawyers are due to contest DNA evidence used to convict her.

Rudy Guede, who was also convicted for the killing, saw his sentence reduced from 30 to 16 years in his first appeal. Italy’s Supreme Court will hear his final appeal on 16 December.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

From Heroes to Villain: Knox in the News

Actress, Hayden Panettiere, is all set to play the part of Amanda Knox (lead role) in an upcoming original Lifetime movie scheduled to air on February 21, 2011. “The Amanda Knox Story” is a TV movie based on the Barbie Nadeau's book Angel Face: the real story of student killer Amanda Knox; chronicling the sensational Italian murder trial over the brutal killing of Knox’s roommate, Meredith Kercher.

Panettiere had expressed her interest in meeting Knox before she portrays the exchange student in the project, which begins filming at the end of October in Rome.

The 21-year-old actress’ request to meet Knox—best known for her role on television show “Heroes,”—was denied, however, by Knox’s lawyers.

The family of the murdered British student slammed the movie's plans after it was announced:

“I don't like the idea of a film based on Meredith’s death. Seeing it graphically portrayed on the big screen is a horrible thought,” her father John Kercher told the Daily Mirror.

Commenting on her involvement Panettiere said,

“They called me up and asked me to do it,” she said. “I was completely floored and flattered. I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ I’m looking forward to it. I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be a really tough project to do but it will be good. It’s a really great story and a very controversial one. The script is written very well, in a way that I don’t think anyone is going to have a problem with. It only takes place up until she was convicted. I know her appeal is coming up pretty soon too so it should be interesting to see what is going to happen with that.”

Besides this new role, Hayden is also expected to play a part in the upcoming ‘Scream 4’ movie.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Erikson’s Eight Stages of Psychosocial Development

Erik Erikson was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on June 15, 1902. Born Erik Homberger; he officially changed his name to Erik Erikson after becoming an American citizen. Erikson practiced child psychoanalysis privately at Harvard Medical School. He later taught at Yale, and later still at the University of California at Berkeley; and it was during this period of time that he conducted his famous studies of modern life among the Lakota and the Yurok. Erikson left Berkeley in 1950, spent ten years working and teaching at a clinic in Massachusetts, and ten more years back at Harvard—before retiring in 1970. He died in 1994.

Before he died he left a great legacy of work—none better than his eight stage theory of Psychosocial Development. Erikson was a “Freudian ego-psychologist,” meaning that he accepted Sigmund Freud’s theories as correct. He was, however, much more culture and society oriented than Freud or most Freudians, with his anthropological background. Freud had previously postulated his famous ‘five stages of psychosocial development,’ which ended in late adolescence. Surely humans do not stop developing after this period. Picking up on this, Erikson added to Freud’s theory, postulating development from late adolescence until death. Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, Erikson gives us the framework for human development throughout an entire lifespan.

NOTE: Erikson believed that if any stage was missed (or the potential skill associated with that stage was not acquired) it would affect other stages of development, keeping one from achieving his or her maximum potential.

Stage One - Trust vs. Mistrust

The first stage is from birth until one-and-a-half years old. In this stage the ultimate goal of the infant (through the parents) is to develop trust without completely eliminating the capacity for mistrust. In this stage, if the parents can give the child a degree of familiarity, consistency, and continuity, the newborn will develop a sense that the world is a safe place and that people are reliable and loving. If the parents, however, are unreliable, or do an inadequate job raising the child, the infant will develop mistrust and be apprehensive and suspicious around people.

Stage two - Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

The second stage occurs from about eighteen months to three or four years old. The primary goal of this stage (through the parents) is to achieve a degree of autonomy (independence) while minimizing shame and doubt. This is a stage in which the parents need to be “firm, but tolerant.” Children in this stage need to be allowed to explore and manipulate their environment in order to develop a sense of independence, as well as self-control and self-esteem. On the other hand; if the parents or caretakers come down to hard on the child for trying to explore their environment, they will instill in the child a sense of shame and to doubt their abilities.

Stage three - Initiative vs. Guilt

The third stage occurs from about three or four to five or six. The primary goal of this stage (through the parents) is to achieve initiative (inventiveness) without too much guilt. Children in this stage need to develop a sense of responsibility and learn new skills informally, not through formal education. A delicate balance needs to be maintained between initiative and guilt. If the parent is too harsh on the child, the child will develop feelings of guilt about his/her feelings: what Erikson called “inhibition.” If the child, however, has too much initiative and not enough guilt, the child will develop a maladaptive tendency; what Erikson called “ruthlessness.”

Stage four - Industry vs. Inferiority

The fourth stage occurs from about six to twelve. The ultimate goal of this stage is to develop a capacity for industry while avoiding an excessive sense of inferiority. In this stage it is time for formal learning, and children must start their education and learn the social skills required by society. Parents, other family members, teachers, and even the child's peers become major influencing factors in this stage. Balance at every level is vital. Too much industry and a child will develop what Erikson called “narrow virtuosity,” such as when parents push their kids to hard to become child actors, musicians or prodigies of all sorts. Too little industry leads to a more common malignancy which Erikson termed “inertia,” or inferiority complexes.

Stage five - Ego-identity vs. Role-confusion

The fifth stage is adolescence, begining with puberty and ending around 18 or 20 years old. Obviously covering a much wider range—in terms of age—there are a number of developmental goals to be attained in this stage. The ultimate goal of this stage is to achieve ego identity while avoiding role confusion; taking all you have learned thus far and molding it into a self image: knowing who you are and your role in society. Society now becomes the biggest influence, and must allow for certain “rights of passage” (tests of endurance, symbolic ceremonies, or educational events, etc.) for individuals to achieve and distinguish child from adult. Too much “ego identity” leads to “fanaticism” (i.e. a person believing that their way is the only way). Lack of identity leads to “repudiation,” which leads individuals to join groups which are eager to provide details of identity (Religious cults, militaristic organizations, groups founded on hatred, etc.), or to destructive activities such as drugs and alcohol.

Stage six – Intimacy vs. Isolation

The sixth stage is young adulthood, which occurs from about 18 to 30. In this stage the ultimate goal is to develop some degree of intimacy, as opposed to remaining in isolation. Intimacy gained too freely is a maladaptive tendency that Erikson termed “promiscuity.” Isolation from love, friendships, and community leads to “exclusion,” in which the individual develops a hatefulness to compensate for the loneliness.

Stage seven – Generativity vs. Self-absorption

The seventh stage is somewhere between mid-twenties and late fifties. The primary goal of this stage is to cultivate the proper balance of generativity (extension of love into the future) and stagnation (self-absorption). The maladaptive tendency Erikson calls “overexertion” is when a person becomes so over generative that they no longer have time for themselves--overextending themselves until they can no longer contribute effectively. The flip side is “rejectivity,” or the tendency to become so self-absorbed that the person no longer cares for anyone and no longer contributes to society.

Stage eight - Integrity vs. Despair

The last stage, loosely termed late adulthood, maturity, or most commonly old age; this stage occurs from about 60 until death. The ultimate goal of this stage is to develop ego integrity with a minimal amount of despair. Many believe that this stage is the most difficult of all because of the many disparities which are associated with it. A detachment from society (or feeling of uselessness), failing of the body to react as it once did, illness, and ultimate concerns of death debilitate many during this stage. In this stage one must effectively put their life into perspective and attach a certain meaning to it in order to feel "whole." People who are unable to do this, develop a deep sense of anguish and despair and wish they had their lives to live over (doing things differently).


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Knox in Court for Slander

Amanda Knox was back in court yesterday, facing slander changers. Francesco Maresca, the attorney for the eight police officers listed on the request for trial filed Friday, told the Seattle Post Intelligencer that the complaint was “all based on what she [Knox] said herself on the stand on the 12 and 13th of June.” Sources say that Knox appeared visibly “drawn and pale” when she appeared in court Friday for the hearing, and that she had also gained weight.

The next hearing for the slander trial against Knox is scheduled for 8 November 2010, at which time arguments are expected to be heard. The actual slander trial, however, may not take place until after Knox’s criminal appeal has been heard and ruled on, which may not take place until January 2011. If she wins the appeal the slander charges may be shelved, but the prosecutor appears to be determined to pursue the charges in order to prove Knox was not mistreated.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The West Memphis 3: Injustice 4 All (Part 1)

New evidence has surfaced in the West Memphis Three murders that have caused a public resurgence of the case. Led by Pearl Jam’s, Eddie Vedder, actor, Johnny Depp, and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks; the public outcry to overrule the 1994 convictions of three teens for the murder of three second-graders has reached a fevered pitch, and a new hearing on the case is scheduled for September 30, 2010. But if the three were not the killers then who was? Moreover, should they have even been convicted in the first place or were they railroaded by a corrupt and unjust group of individuals?

On May 5, 1993, West Memphis, Arkansas, was left in shock by just about the worst type of crime that could ever be committed. It was the day when three eight-year-old boys [Christopher Byers, Michael Moore, and Steve Branch] were brutally murdered. Their bodies were later discovered in the woods of Robin Hood Hills badly beaten; with Byers found with his testicles removed and the skin on his penis carved-away. During a completely botched investigation and pressure from the community to apprehend the perpetrator(s), police announced on June 3, 1993, that they had arrested three suspects: Damien Echols [18], Jason Baldwin [16], and Jessie Misskelley [17]. The three boys were typical heavy-metal, problem children who appeared to be dead-ringers for the murders. The alleged killers were dubbed “The West Memphis Three” (WM3), and the town quickly went into an uproar, calling for the boys’ heads; and a modern day witch trial followed.

The arrest, and the entire case for that matter, rested primarily on the coerced confession from Jessie Misskelley. With a 72 IQ—bordering on mental retardation—police interrogated Misskelley for 12 hours, recording only the last 45 minutes. During the ‘confession,’ Misskelley said that Echols beat the kids, had sex with them, and then killed them. Misskelley said that one victim, Steven Branch, began to run away, so he ran after him and brought him back to the scene in the woods and then left. Police accepted the confession, although Misskelley’s statement was filled with contradictions. For instance, Misskelley claimed that this happened at 12 noon, although the victims were in school until about 4p.m. Also, there were no signs of sexual abuse, according to the medical examiner. Dr. Richard Ofshe, a Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and an expert witnesses for Misskelley’s defense, testified that the brief recording was a “classic example” of police coercion. Ofshe has described Misskelley’s statement saying, “[It is] the stupidest fucking confession I’ve ever seen.”

The evidence against the WM3 included:

• Jessie’s confession (June 3, 1993)
• A fiber found on Steven Branch’s shirt that matched a fiber from Jason Baldwin’s mother (secondary transfer)
• A couple of fibers from a shirt found at Damien Echols house (one on Michael’s cub scout cap and one on his shirt)
• The Hollingsworth Clan told police that they witnessed Damien on the Service Road near the crime scene
• Two girls (Christy VanVickle & Jodee Medford) claimed that they overheard Echols say at a kids softball game that he had killed the boys and that he was going to kill two more before he turned himself in
• Michael Ray Carson, who was in the Craighead County Juvenile Detention Center (for burglary) with Jason Baldwin, claimed that Jason told him that they killed the boys and ate their testicles
• Serrated knife found in the lake behind Jason Baldwin’s home

Evidence Debunked

The evidence against the WM3 has always been in question. The most decisive evidence-violation in the trial was the jury’s use of Jessie Misskelley’s confession. Misskelley refused to testify at the Echols/Baldwin trial and his confession was ruled inadmissible by the judge. However, jury foreman, Kent Arnold, admitted that he was trying to convince other jurors to convict based upon news reports of the confession. Not only is this considered hearsay-evidence, but it clearly indicates jury-misconduct, and this alone should warrant a mistrial, and Arnold should’ve been held in contempt of court. In regard to the fiber evidence, specialists claimed that none of the fibers found could be attributed to Echols or Baldwin to the exclusion of all others. In essence meaning, authorities could not give a definitive answer whether those fibers came from Echols or Baldwin.

Danny Williams had been a counselor at the Craighead County Juvenile Detention Center at the same time that Jason Baldwin and Michael Ray Carson had been there. Williams told Baldwin’s defense that several months prior to the trial, Carson was one of the boys that he had been counseling. Williams said that during one conversation he had informed Carson of the details of the murder. Williams claimed that Carson—who was a medically-diagnosed LSD addict—was lying and the only reason that he had this information about Baldwin was because he himself informed Carson of the details. Councilor Williams also informed the prosecution of this story, yet they still used Carson as a witness. The presiding judge, David Burnett, ruled that this information was a violation of Carson’s right to patient-counselor confidentiality and did not allow the jury to hear Mr. Williams’ testimony.

In December 1993, John Mark Byers (stepfather of victim Christopher Byers) gave the makers of the film Paradise Lost a used hunting knife as a Christmas gift. The knife appeared to have dried blood on it, so they handed it over to police on 8 January 1994 (folding-lockable Kershaw knife – exhibit # E6). DNA expert for the prosecution, Michael DeGuglielmo, testified that the blood on the knife was the same type as Mark and Chris Byers. Since they both had the same DNA type, the test was inconclusive. Forensic pathologist, Dr. Frank Peretti, testified that some of the wounds found on Chris Byers were consistent with Byers’ knife. Private investigator for Damien’s defense team, Ron Lax, was told by Mr. Byers that no one had ever been cut with that particular knife.

On 26 January 1994, WMPD inspector, Gary Gitchell, asked Mr. Byers during a taped conversation if he had ever taken the knife hunting. Mr. Byers answered, “No,” claiming that “the knife had not been used at all; it has just been in my dresser.” During that same recorded conversation, Mr. Byers also stated, “I have no idea how it could have any blood on it…I don’t ever remember nicking myself with it.”
However, during the trial Mr. Byers testified that he did not remember telling the inspector this, and his new claim was that he had used the knife around Thanksgiving to cut venison. Moreover, Mr. Byers told the court that he had “cut his thumb with the knife.” Conveniently for the prosecution, the blood evidence has since been destroyed, preventing any further analysis.

During the trial, Christy VanVickle testified that she did not remember how close or how far away that she was from Damien Echols when he admitted to the murders, nor whether he had said it softly or loudly. After the convictions, a sworn affidavit from Jodee Medford’s mother (of one of two girls who testified that she overheard Echols admit to the crime at a softball game) now says that Echols’ statement was not serious and that neither she nor her daughter believes he committed the crime.

Jason Misskelley was tried first in a separate trial. He was convicted and received a life sentence plus 40 years. In the next trial, Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life in prison without parole, and Damien Echols is on Death Row, sentenced to die by lethal injection. Despite week evidence, the 24 jurors convicted all three men “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

In spite of powerful new evidence presented in Craighead County Circuit Court, Judge David Burnett refused to grant Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley a new trial. The Arkansas Supreme Court is currently reviewing the new DNA and forensic evidence as well as juror misconduct to determine whether to grant Damien Echols a new trial.

Stay tuned for PART 2…


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Queen of Coffee Nabbed & indicted

Former lingerie model from the Colombian city of Barranquilla, Angie Sanclemente Valencia, was arrested on May 26, 2010, after being on-the-run since December 2009. Valencia, who is accused of running one of the biggest drug-trafficking operations in the world, was captured by Airport Security forces in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Palermo, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Valencia had been hiding out in Buenos Aires since December, when airport police caught a 21-year-old Argentine woman with 55 kilograms of cocaine in her baggage boarding a flight to Cancun. That led to arrests of six other alleged gang members; all of whom implicated Valencia as being the ring-leader. Judge Marcelo Aguinsky issued the international warrant for the beauty queen soon after.

During her period in hiding, Valencia declared her innocence on Facebook. Her mother, Jeannette Valencia, flew in from Colombia some weeks ago to protest her innocence as well. “She is no drug trafficker, nor is she the queen of cocaine,” she declared after the arrest. “There are bad intentions—a plot against her,” she added. Judicial authorities have rejected a request for special treatment from her lawyer, Guillermo Tiscornia, who said Valencia had not turned herself in for fear that her looks would expose her to rape or other mistreatment in a common Argentine prison. “They will rape her...they will cut her face,” her mother asserted.

Valencia was dubbed “The Queen of Coffee” after winning her country’s National Coffee Queen beauty pageant in 2000. She was stripped of her crown, however, when it was discovered she was married at the time, which was in violation of pageant rules. Valencia, 30, was formally charged with “attempted aggravated contraband” for her alleged part in a ring dedicated to international drug trafficking from Argentina to Europe via Mexico. Valencia was indicted recently by Judge Rafael Caputo, who also ordered the seizure of goods owned by Valencia in the amount of $3.2 million dollars. Police were able to determine Valencia’s identity because she had made quite an impression upon her arrival in Argentina, flying first class with a Pomeranian dog, an official said. Valencia posed as a college student from Mexico, she was traveling under the name “Annie,” she had dyed her hair blonde, and she put on weight to evade capture.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Unprecedented Murder-4-Hire Sting

In one of the more bizarre murder-for-hire cases, police set up an elaborate sting operation to catch a woman who was attempting to have her husband killed. In 2009, petite, curvaceous ex-escort, Dalia Dippolito, told her friend (an unnamed informant) that she needed help finding someone to kill her husband, Michael Dippolito. The informant had been friends with Dalia for nearly a decade before, and had only gone to police because he believed that she was “dead serious” about going through with the crime. Immediately, Boynton Beach Police began working with the informant, setting up a sophisticated sting operation. Police taped meetings between Dalia and the informant, where she provided him with a picture of her husband. Working with police, the informant had told Dalia that he had found a friend who would carry out the crime. During one meeting Dalia gave the informant a $1,200 down payment to give to the killer. Still, police did not move in; instead, they waited and built-up more of a case against her.

Police styled an undercover cop as a hit-man that met with Dalia to discuss the details of the murder while being recorded by police. Parked in a car near her apartment, Dalia told the undercover officer that she was “five-thousand percent sure” that she wanted her husband killed. Police then went so far as to set up a fake crime scene. On August 5, 2009, police simulated a murder scene by putting up crime-scene tape at the Dippolito’s home and waited for Dalia. When she arrived they led her to believe that the murder had been committed, having an officer break the news of her husband’s death. As she sobbed dramatically, her antics were caught by a video crew. Police then took her down to the police station as a witness, allowing her to incriminate herself further. Only later, in a tiny interrogation room at the police station, would officers reveal that her husband was alive. Then, in a phone call conversation from jail she had the nerve to call her husband and refute the things that she clearly said on tape, as well as making herself out to be the victim. Her trial is coming up soon with a plethora of evidence to convict. There will also likely be a made-for-TV-movie as well...

Click HERE for verdict and sentencing

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Is there a Serial Killer in Bergen County?

On Tuesday night, police and firefighters responded to a call from neighbors that the house at 976 Alpine Drive, Teaneck, NJ, was on fire. When they arrived they found a woman charred beyond recognition in the bedroom of the house. Police believed that it was the home owner, Fairleigh Dickinson professor, Joan Davis, 72. Suddenly things changed on Wednesday, when police tape surrounded the scene and a forensic crime truck was seen pulling into the driveway. Suddenly, Bergen County Prosecutor, John L. Molinelli, announced (late afternoon) that an autopsy coupled with analysis of the scene indicated the death was the result of a homicide.

Then NBC (New York) announced that the cause of death was blunt force trauma. Other sources have stated that the victim was stabbed multiple times before the perpetrator burned the scene; likely to cover-up evidence. Investigators believe that the body—which has not been identified yet and dental records are being sought—is in fact the owner, Joan Davis. Neighbors were aghast, labeling the crime a “complete shock.” No other facts have been released publically at this time.

In an eerily similar incident back in April 2010, Palisades Park resident, Dolores Alliotts, 69, faced an analogous fate. Another beloved longtime resident had been pulled from her fire-damaged home on 12th Street. Prosecutor Molinelli said that a preliminary autopsy on the badly burned body revealed that she had been stabbed several times in the torso and possibly elsewhere, before the blaze was set.

Both murders involved older women who lived alone, and were longtime, well-known residents. They were also both stabbed and their bodies were set on fire in their homes, and both crimes appear to have occurred around the same time of night/early morning. Both murders have also been classified as arson/homicides. Surely police and the prosecutor are aware of the uncanny similarities of both murders and are investigating the possibility that they may have been committed by the same person(s), although nothing public has been stated even linking the murders yet.

Police should be looking into if there are any connections between the two victims, such as whether they may have gotten their prescriptions from the same place, or whether they had the same doctor, etc. There is also the prospect that at least one of the crime scenes has some type of DNA or fingerprint evidence that may identify and link the killer(s) to either scene, although the fire may have damaged key evidence. Police have set-up a large perimeter around the home and many of the surrounding homes on Alpine Drive. The perimeter is so large that it is impossible to even get a glimpse at the house. Hopefully police will find some type of pertinent evidence. I will continue to follow this developing story and provide updates.

In the meantime, if you have any information contact police immediately…


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Suspected Serial Stabber in Custody

Elias Abuelazam [33], an Israeli citizen who is in the U.S. legally, was arrested today in connection with upwards of 20 stabbings across three states (5 fatalities). Abuelazam was arrested at about 10 p.m., last night by U.S. Customs Boarder Protection Agents at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport while trying to board Delta Air Lines flight to Tel Aviv, Israel. His arrest is in connection with a July 27th stabbing, and police say that there are still many issues that need to be addressed before identifying this individual as the person responsible for this horrific crime spree.

Police had focused their hunt on Flint—where 17 stabbings took place—until Leesburg police reported three attacks. Authorities in Toledo, Ohio, say a stabbing in that city Saturday appears to be linked to the violent spree. The suspect has been linked to a dark green Chevy S-10 Blazer with tan trim, with a model year ranging from 1995 to about 2000. The FBI is assisting Leesburg police, the lead agency investigating.

Based on over 500 tips police received—the most useful tip came in just after midnight Wednesday—police learned the suspect worked at the Kingwater party store in Beecher, located north of Flint. Officers checked surveillance video from the store to confirm the suspect previously worked at that store.

The serial stabber approaches black men late at night on lonely urban roads and asks for directions or help with a broken-down car. Then, without warning, he pulls out a knife and strikes. Then, he speeds away in his vehicle, leaving his victims for dead. Obviously this M.O. leaves police to believe that the crimes are racially motivated. The youngest victim was 15; the oldest was 67. They ranged in size from 5-foot-4 inches and 120 pounds to 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Amityville 'Horror' House Into Contract

Spending only 70 days on the market, the Amityville Horror House went into contract this week.

Joanne Mills of Exit Realty Premier found the buyer. She would not disclose who they are, but Jerry O'Neill of Coldwell Banker Harbor Light in Amityville, whose brother, Peter O'Neill, was a previous owner of the home, said the buyers live in the community and "wanted to get on the water in a big, old classic house.

Sources identify the buyers as David and Caroline D’Antonio (currently living at 21 Hamilton St., in Amityville), retirees who are active in community affairs. When reached by phone Thursday, a man who answered at the D’Antonio residence refused to comment.

Mentally Ill in Amityville (2nd Edition) ON SALE NOW!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Serial Killer "The Grim Sleeper" Suspect in Custody

A suspected serial killer was arrested today in connection with the killings of at least 10 female’s over two decades in the southern Los Angeles area. Known as The Grim Sleeper, suspect, Lonnie David Franklin Jr., is a retired LAPD mechanic who allegedly targeted 10 black women and one black male for murder from 1985 until 2007. From 1985 to 1988, The Grim Sleeper killed eight people. The most elusive serial killer to ever haunt the western United States, he did not kill again until December of 2001, which earned him the nickname the grim sleeper.

During several of his crimes the Sleeper had left his DNA behind, but working as a police mechanic at the Los Angeles Police Department's 77th Division station, he knew how to keep his nose clean; and he had never been arrested before. With no fingerprints and no DNA in the databases, police had no one to match the DNA found at each crime scene to anyone with any prior arrests. That was until his very own son was arrested and a DNA sample taken from him that led police right to Lonnie.

The Grim Sleeper’s sole survivor, Margette Enietra, recalls her nearly fatal encounter with The Grim Sleeper. She was shot in the chest by him and lost consciousness for a moment. When she came to, the Sleeper was snapping Polaroid photos of her and had sexual assaulted her. He threw her in the car and sped away in his orange Ford Pinto. Margette struggled with him and pleaded for him to take her to the hospital, but he refused.

The Sleeper finally pulled over, beat her senseless with his gun, opened her door and pushed her onto the darkened street. Somehow, battered and bloodied, Margette got to her feet and walked the many blocks to her best friend’s house, leaving a bloody meandering trail along the street and smeared on parked cars.

Los Angeles police confiscated hundreds of items from the suspected Grim Sleeper’s house and vehicles after his arrest, including firearms and ammunition, car seats possibly stained with bodily fluids, and pornographic photos and videos. With more than 650 items booked into evidence, police believe that they have the right man. They have charged Franklin with 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, and they are continuing to build a case against him.

Sleeper’s M.O.

.25 caliber hand gun - Bludgeon. The Killer does not seem to be attempting to conceal his activities. The gun is a .25 caliber hand gun and it has been used in 10 out of 12 confirmed attacks and murders. He picks up victims either forcibly or willingly (in the case of prostitutes). He rapes/sexually assaults his victims (male victim excluded) and usually shoots to the chest (male victim was shot in head). Two victims were strangled with no gun involved. Survivor claims her attacker took Polaroid photographs as he sexually assaulted her. Victims are then dumped on the South side of Los Angeles in close proximity to each other.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Knox’s Parents Facing Jail Time

Amanda Knox turns 23 on July 9, 2010. It will be her third birthday in Capanne prison just outside Perugia, Italy. Today, however, Amanda Knox’s parents were not pleading for Amanda’s innocence, but they were pleading for their own. Edda Mellas and Curt Knox (Amanda’s biological parents) appeared in court today for their preliminary hearing. Twelve Perugia police officers had filed defamation-charges against the pair well over a year ago after they told the London Times in June 2008, that their daughter was struck by police during her November 5, 2007 interrogation. Surprisingly enough, the officers were represented in court today by Francesco Maresca--the lawyer who represented the Kercher family during Amanda and Raffaele’s murder trial.

The purpose of this hearing was to determine whether their was enough evidence against Amanda’s parents to proceed with a full trial. The hearing today did not bring good news, as it was determined that there is enough evidence to proceed. The trail is scheduled to begin in mid-October. Knox’s parents have been very outspoken critics of the Italian justice system. Italian law enforcement pushed back heavily today, and no doubt want the pair silenced. Regardless, Curt Kox is not backing down, saying that “With respect to Edda’s and my slander charges, I believe those will get thrown out and this is nothing more than a harassment.”

If convicted, Knox’s parents face heavy fines and up to 3 years in jail. It is unlikely that her parents will go to jail, although if up to the twelve police officers, they would. However, it is more likely that they will be slapped with heavy fines, and considering their financial hardships (regarding their constant traveling back and forth to see their daughter as well as Amanda’s extensive lawyer fees) these fines may be just as debilitating.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jailed Italian Mobster Says ‘Knox is Innocent.’

Another shocking and bizarre twist occurs in the Amanda Knox case. On 10 June, jailed Italian mobster, Luciano Aviello, claims that his brother killed Kercher during a botched burglary attempt. Last week, Knox’s defense team, Carlo Dalla Vedova and Luciano Ghirga, went to the Ivrea prison outside Turin where Aviello is serving 17 years for mob-related crimes. In a videotaped statement, Aviello told the lawyers that his brother, Antonio, went to his house the night Kercher was killed and asked him to hide a bloodstained knife and set of keys. The significance of that statement is that Kercher’s set of keys to the cottage have never been recovered, and the Mariette-knife that the prosecution claimed was the murder weapon was called ‘seriously flawed’ and ‘contaminated’ by several expert defense witnesses.

“It was my brother who killed Meredith on the night of November 1, 2007. Amanda, Raffaele and Guede are innocent,” Luciano Aviello, 41, told Knox's lawyers. "When he [Antonio] came to my house he had a bloodstained jacket," Aviello says in the statement. “He said he had broken into a house and killed a girl and then he had run away.” According to Aviello, his brother and a friend named Florio (an Albanian man) went into the cottage to steel paintings and found Kercher alone. Kercher began screaming loudly and Antonio says that he stabbed her and they ran off into the night. “My brother confessed the murder to me and gave me the blood-stained knife and a set of keys (to hide)." Aviello said that he hid the knife and keys under a wall behind the house in Perugia, Italy where he was living at the time. Antonio's whereabouts are unknown, but he is thought to be in Naples.

Aviello has come forward with this information several times in 2009, and it has been confirmed that Knox’s defense team has known about this information as early as March 2010. The lead Prosecutor in the case, Giuliano Mignini, said he was aware that Aviello wrote to the judge in the Knox case several times but the judge dismissed it. “There is nothing else to say,” Mignini told UK’s the Daily Mail. So now we will have to wait and see if Aviello can produce these two key pieces of evidence. Personally, I think that if this evidence existed they would have already been provided. Here we have another case of a convict trying to get in the news, much like the rantings on the case by another convict, Mario Alessi.


Why would experienced/mob-related criminals rob a known college dorm house looking for expensive paintings? This just doesn’t hold water in my opinion. Where is the physical evidence in the house belonging to these new suspects? Then there is also the fact that Rudy Guede was there, by his own admittance, fingerprints and footprints (as well as his DNA found inside of Kercher’s vagina). Guede also said that he heard a woman’s voice by the door and saw her silhouette as she and the alleged perpetrated (who threatened him with a knife) fled into the night. Not sure how this will be explained. Did they then find Guede in the bathroom of the house and intimidated him into silence? Is Aviello’s statement fantastic or fantastical?

Knox’s appeal is supposed to begin sometime this fall, where Knox’s lawyers are expected to bring up these new claims. Now we must play the waiting game again to see what developments occur and if these key pieces of evidence will be produced.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Amanda Knox Back in Court for Slander

Amanda Knox was back in court today facing slander charges. Knox originally testified that she was smacked in the head twice by a female police officer during her November 5, 2007, interrogation. If found guilty, Knox could face an additional six-years on top of her 26-year sentence for the murder of Meredith Kercher.

One of Knox’s lawyers, Luciano Ghirga, argued in court today that it is improper for the slander charge to be heard by Judge Claudia Matteini, because she had presided over one of the preliminary hearings for the murder charges. This objection by Ghirga prompted an adjournment until June 17th, at which time it is likely that a new judge will be assigned to hear the case.

The trail for the slander charge is scheduled to take place on October 1, 2010. Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito’s, appeals are due to start around the same time. This means that Knox herself might well be involved in two trials at the same time. Worse case scenario for Knox, if she loses the slander case and the prosecution wins the appeal, she could actually be facing upwards of 40 years total.

As for Knox and Sollecito’s appeal, Prosecutor General, Giancarlo Costagliola, has been chosen to prosecute. Unfortunately for Knox and Sollecito, Costagliola was recommended by prosecutors of the last trial, Manuela Comodi and Giuliano Mignini. There is currently a problem deciding who the judge will be, as every judge has in some way contributed to prior hearings on the case in some way. Only the President of the Court of Appeal remains as a viable candidate, but he’s about to retire. So, currently there is no judge left for the appeal. What ever will they do? Most likely a judge from Rome will be assigned to preside over the appeal, at which time Knox and her team will probably ask for change of venue.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Amityville Horror House on Sale

The infamous Amityville horror house is once again back in the news, as it was put up for sale on Monday by owner, Brian Wilson, at an asking price of $1.15 million dollars.

An international superstar in its own right, the house was made famous in Jay Anson’s best selling book “The Amityville Horror,” which was later turned into a 1979 blockbuster movie.

Even before the news broke I was contacted by a producer for FOX 5’s “Good Day NY,” seeking information from me about the history of the home (book: Mentally Ill In Amityville).

Wilson purchased the home back in 1997 for only $310,000; which is $15,000 less then the previous owners, the O’Neil’s, paid for it in 1987. With a sky-high asking price, it’s no wonder why Wilson has stayed silent about the home all these years. In fact, Wilson is insistent on maintaining privacy, and emphatically denied roomers of ghosts or flesh-eating flies. “There are wackos out there who believe there are flying pigs in the house and bleeding walls,” Wilson told Newsday back in 1998. When I spoke to him back in 2008, he was cantankerous to say the least and denied us all access to the grounds.

Wilson has renovated the property, including the boathouse, the bulk head, the central air conditioning, the gas heating system, the roof, the windows, the sprinkler system, the central stereo system, the deck and the patio.

So now the world waits eagerly to see who the new owner will be. Will the new owner finally allow for testing of the grounds to see if there is actually an Indian burial ground on the property? “It’s just a matter of time before someone tries to transform the house into a cash cow,” said former Suffolk County Detective, Ed Miller; one of the many officers who investigated the DeFeo murders back in 1974.

At a village meeting back in 1997, a master planner from Massachusetts explained that the town of Salem turned its sordid history of witch-burning into a multi-million dollar tourist industry. “Could you imagine what kind of attraction it would be,” said Amityville Mayor, Peter Imbert, in regard to the house’s tourist attracting possibilities. But the town’s residents shouted down the idea, citing that it would “exploit the murders of the DeFeo family.”

In 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr., shot six members of his family members at the house while they were sleeping. The next family to move in, the Lutzes, said they were chased out of the house by evil-spirits after only 28 days. The Lutzes even passed a lie-detector test on the matter, which was conducted by two renowned polygraph specialists, Chris Gugas and Michael Rice.

Almost as soon as he arrived this week for a broker-open-house on Ocean Ave., Realtor James Smith says he “got an eerie feeling.” But it wasn’t until he went into the basement of the house that, he says, he got goose-bumps and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. “You felt like something was there,” said Smith. He says he asked two other agents in the basement with him, “Did you feel that?” he asked them. Then, he says, “We took off and got out of there.” After the open house, Smith told Channel 4 News, “I don’t believe it was a hoax.” We will have to wait and see how this story develops, but one thing is certain; the Amityville horror house is a mainstay in American culture as long as it stands and it will continue to cause nightmares around the world.

Mentally Ill in Amityville (2nd Edition) ON SALE NOW!!!

Mentally Ill in Amityville 2nd Ed (Kindle Book Available Now - $5.99)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mexican Drug War: US/Mexican Border Violence (part 1)

The war on drugs in the United States has long been a topic of concern. Even before the term “War on Drugs” was first uttered by President Richard Nixon back in 1969, drugs had already plagued the U.S. Yet, there has been no bigger threat to the U.S. in regard to drugs than in recent years like Mexico. The U.S. has failed to make a dent in Mexican drug trafficking despite multiple efforts and millions upon millions of dollars spent to combat it. In fact, 90% of all cocaine consumed in the U.S. is transited from Mexico. Along with cocaine Mexico is also a major source of heroine, methamphetamine, and marijuana, as well as a primary placement point for the laundering of narcotics and derived criminal proceeds. This begs the questions: Is the United States partly responsible, and what is our role in this diabolical skyrocketing industry?

It wasn’t long ago that Columbia was known as the drug capital of the world. Back in August of 2000, President Bill Clinton and then Columbian President, Andres Pastrana, signed “Plan Columbia,” in which we spent some $7.5 billion to fund the war on drugs in Columbia. Most of that money came from us; the rest from Europe and the United Nations. However, by then most of the problem had shifted to Southern Mexico and Mexico City and quickly drifted-up toward U.S. borders. The shift was mainly due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed by Bill Clinton back on January 1, 1994.

NAFTA created the largest free trade region in the world, eliminating trade barriers, and promoting investments between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. It was praised for its economic benefits. However, it also opened up the borders for a flood of drug trafficking that has spun into a multi-billion dollar industry. By 2000, the domination of Mexican drug cartels contributed to a phenomenal increase in border violence. In Mexico, drug related violence has risen from approximately 2,700 deaths in 2007, to over 5,000 in 2008. Drug related deaths average about 10-12 a day over the last three years, according to the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report of 2009. The Mexican police and military appear to be overwhelmed with the drug cartels and a force that protects these cartels, which has gotten little media coverage her in the U.S.

The Los Zetas are a criminal mercenary army that protects cartels along Mexico’s Gulf Coast. The Zetas are primarily comprised of former members of the Mexican Army’s elite Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales (GAFA) or (Airmobile Special Forces Group). Most of the Los Zetas were originally trained Mexican soldiers who had either gone a-wall or had retired. They have since partnered with different, competing drug cartels in an effort to protect them as hired guns; a task that earns them far more then any legal job.

Mexico’s President, Felipe Calderón, has compared the Zetas to Al-Qaida in the fact that they operate as a cell-like structure in order to limit the information that any one member of the organization knows about the association. The Zetas have teamed with these cartels for almost ten years now and are responsible for a myriad of deaths. They are also responsible for Casino robberies, and have recently freed twenty-five fellow Narco-traffickers from a prison in Apatzingán, Michoacán. The Los Zetas are ruthless, and their criminal activities also include kidnapping, murder-for-hire, assassinations, extortion, money laundering, and human smuggling. Some Zetas have even crossed the U.S. border into Texas and formed partnerships with criminal gangs in pursuit of criminal activities.

The Mérida Initiative was announced on 22 October 2007 and signed into law on June 30, 2008, by President George W. Bush. This new plan to combat Mexican drug trafficking is similar to Plan Columbia, and is a security cooperation between the United States and the government of Mexico and the countries of Central America, with the aim of combating the threats of drug trafficking, transnational crime, and money laundering. As part of this bilateral enforcement effort, the Bush Administration implemented a three-year, $1.4 billion aid package to assist Mexico. In the first year we sent Mexico $116 million to purchase military equipment to conduct surveillance operations, combat drug-trafficking related violence, organized crime, and other counter-narcotics programs.

In 2009, Congress and President Barack Obama approved an additional $300 million (on top of the $1.4 billion) to Mexico in Merida funding. Additional funding is also available to Mexico from the U.S. Defense Department for military and law enforcement personnel, but this is only a small drop in the bucket. Regardless of this funding, drug-trafficking in the region continues to escalate at an enormous rate. There is no doubt that the biggest reason for this at this point is that Mexican and Columbian drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) generate nearly $35 billion annually in wholesale drug proceeds. This calculates to approximately $105 billion in three-years. That means that we are spending less than 1% of what the DTOs are during the three-year Merida Initiative.

Others blame President Calderón for the escalating trafficking and violence. In the three-years he’s been in power, Mexico has tripled its spending on security, and has seen nearly 14,000 people dead from drug-related violence. The border city of Ciudad Juárez has since been turned into a warzone. There was even one reported incident where a drug cartel stormed into a clinic and killed everyone (nurses, doctors, patients, and all staff). It was reported that the killings occurred because the clinic had cooperated in some way with a rival cartel; they did it to send a message.

A big part of the criticism of Calderón comes from his October 2008, proposed legislation which decriminalized possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. In April 2009, Calderón singed the bill into law, allowing for the personal use of some illicit drugs. This contradiction by Calderón has inflamed his critics. The new law allows individuals to possess small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, ecstasy, and methamphetamine without penalty. The breakdowns of the legal amounts are as follows:

• Marijuana – 5grams (approx. 3 joints)
• Cocaine – half a gram (approx. 4 lines)
• Heroin – 50 milligrams
• Methamphetamine – 40 milligrams
• LSD – 0.015 milligrams

The Mexican Attorney General’s Office characterized the law as regulating rather than legalizing drugs to give the public greater legal certainly. Some Mexican defense lawyers, however, view the changes as merely codifying what has been an informal practice among public officials within the Mexican Justice System. The break-out of the H1N1 virus (a.k.a. the Swine Flu) distracted the public and international opposing voices regarding the contradictory nature of this new drug law, as it came out at about the same time that the law was enacted.

Despite all of these efforts to combat drug trafficking, this problem continues to get worse. From 2001 – 2008, the amount of cocaine transited from South America towards the U.S. ranges from 494 to 710 metric tons. Seventy-percent of all cocaine that comes into the U.S. is transited through the Mexican-Central American corridor. The primary means of smuggling include:

1. Go-fast boats (a.k.a. cigarette boats – like the one’s seen in Miami Vice)
2. Commercial & private vessels
3. Submarines
4. Commercial & private vehicles
5. Rail traffic
6. Busses
7. Tunnels
8. Pedestrians

What else can be done to combat this growing problem?



READ PART 3 (Fast & Furious)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Debt Watch

April 8, 2010 (1:25a.m. est. time)

Current U.S. National Debt: 12,784,748,200,125

At this moment the National Debt is going up $2 million a minute. If it were to remain at this rate it would go up:

• $120 (Million an Hour)
• $2,880 (Billion a Day)
• $20,160 (Billion a Week)
• $1,048,320 (Trillion a Year)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Alleged Prison Confession Casts Doubts

Last week the Italian court released a 427-page report detailing the reasons for Knox and Sollecito’s convictions. This week, however, an allegation from a prison-mate of Rudy Guede’s says that Knox and Sollecito are innocent, because Guede told him so. On Friday the lawyers for Sollecito deposited video-taped testimony from a fellow convict of Rudy Guede, Mario Alessi, in which he says Guede confided to him in prison that Knox and Sollecito were not at the house when Kercher was killed, but rather another man was present. Mario Alessi is a convicted child murderer who is serving a life sentence in Italy for kidnapping and killing 17-month old, Tommaso Onofri, in 2006. Alessi is currently serving time in the isolation wing of the Viterbo maximum security prison in Italy, where they keep the convicted sex offenders.

Last month, in a videotaped statement sent to Sollecito’s defense lawyer (Giulia Bongiorno), Alessi claimed that Guede told him and two other prisoners that Knox and Sollecito were never at the crime scene. Alessi also said that Guede wasn’t alone, but that a male friend of his was there with him. This “other friend,” who Guede refused to identify, was the one who slit Meredith’s throat, according to Alessi. What made him come forward with these allegations? Alessi says that “He came forward for the children.” This is coming from a man who when first questioned by police—about the murdered toddler—went on Italian television and declared his innocence saying, “You shall not touch children!” One month later Alessi was leading police to the shallow, riverside grave where he had buried the child. So why should we believe a man who confessed on tape to beating a toddler to death with a shovel, because the child “was crying?” Moreover, why would Guede cover for this so called “friend” if the friend is the one that did the killing? AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, why was no evidence of this friend found at the crime scene? (Remember, they found numerous signs of Guede's presence).

Rudy Guede heard about Alessi’s allegations two days ago while in prison and released a statement saying that he “never talked with Alessi about Meredith Kercher’s murder.” In previous testimony Guede heavily implicated Knox and Sollecito: “Those two [Knox and Sollecito] must be condemned, because they are murderers.” Guede’s lawyers, Walter Biscotti and Nicodemo Gentile, met with him in prison in Viterbo yesterday, where he released a statement. Guede “denied in the most absolute way” the allegations of Alessi. Guede’s lawyers informed the media that they were in possession of several wiretapped moments of Guede in prison and have never heard him speak of the murder. Guede and Alessi were not noted as friends in prison. “How can we think that he would confide in Alessi?” Guede’s lawyers asked. The lawyers announced legal action against Alessi for the false allegations in the report. Kercher family lawyer, Francesco Maresca, released a statement on the matter, calling Alessi “a lier.”

Meanwhile, Sollecito’s lawyer, Giulia Bongiorno—who is also a politician—holds a seat in the Italian Parliament. Her timing in releasing the Alessi tape comes just a couple of days after the 427-page court report on the Knox and Sollecito convictions; despite the fact that she's been holding it for about a month. Investigations of the statements made by Alessi will be carried out in the coming days. Indeed the report was filed yesterday by Bongiorno with the Public Prosecutor of the Republic of Perugia.