Wednesday, May 30, 2007

AUS: League man 'paid off rape victim'

SUPERINTENDENT Adam Purcell has suggested someone may have "taken quids" to talk a Finnish backpacker out of pursuing a gang rape complaint and enticed her to leave the country.

And in a secretly recorded conversation he mused that Gavin Wood, then Waverley inspector and fellow assistant manager of the NSW State of Origin, might have been the one.

In the conversation, played at the Police Integrity Commission hearing into the matter yesterday, Mr Purcell told a colleague he was worried "someone did take quids to talk [the alleged victim] out of it and get her on a plane".

"I never met her. I don't know who she is. They got her to lay down," he said.

The alleged rape took place after the woman had been socialising with the first grade player, Bryan Fletcher, and others.

After wondering why Mr Wood did not wish to speak to him after they were both summoned to appear at the commission, Mr Purcell said: "Has he taken quids and has he then decided to put me up … Gavin Wood. Close to the wind …Woody is a f---ing tower of Jello."

The commission is investigating whether there had been any police misconduct or criminal activity in connection with the investigation of the alleged rape in November 2004.

The woman told police she had gone home with some men, and started having consensual sex with one, when up to eight men appeared and raped her.

She later told police she did not wish to proceed with the matter, and left the country within days of the incident.

Fletcher was identified as one of the men who had taken a taxi with the woman from the city to the house where the alleged attack took place.

Yesterday the commission widened its terms of reference to include whether Mr Purcell had "been involved in serious misconduct or criminal activity in relation to the release of confidential police information".

This came as Mr Purcell was asked about contradictions in his evidence, and had to explain why he had not told the commission the details of his contact with Fletcher, Fletcher's former coach Ricky Stuart and the man believed to have orchestrated the alleged rape - codenamed Mal 12.

Mr Purcell had told the commission on Wednesday that he had contacted Stuart to get Fletcher's telephone number. He said he had not told him why he wanted to speak to Fletcher, and had not contacted him again.

But yesterday the commission revealed that Mr Purcell rang Stuart shortly after meeting Fletcher at Bondi police station and spoke with him for about 4½ minutes. Stuart told the commission that Mr Purcell had told him earlier in the day about the alleged rape and Fletcher's possible involvement, and he had then told Fletcher. Mr Purcell has also told the commission he discussed the status of the police investigation with South Sydney's chief executive officer, Shane Richardson, and Fletcher's wife.

Two months ago he discussed the matter with his former colleague, detective-sergeant Alison Brazel, in a secretly recorded conversation.

Mr Purcell told her that Mal 12 had revealed to him in July 2006 that the alleged victim performed oral sex on Fletcher outside Mal 12's house, before having sex with Mal 12 and his brother, Mal 13, inside the house. When she withdrew her consent, Fletcher left, Mr Purcell said.

Yesterday Mal 12 briefly appeared before the commission. He said he could not remember the events of the night, or the conversation with Mr Purcell.

In another recorded conversation with an unnamed police superintendent two days before he was first due to appear at the commission, Mr Purcell revealed that he worried about some football tickets Fletcher had given him. "I've got nothing to roll 'cause nothing happened. That's exactly, my tickets are a pain in the arse," he said. "Hang me for the tickets. I took three, to a trial match … I've copped tickets … it'll look bad … three months later."

Mr Purcell told the colleague that he did not want to tell the commission about the tickets.

He was asked by counsel assisting the commission, Michael King, SC about the conversation:

"Well, you were running a version of the events past him just to see if it made sense, weren't you, Mr Purcell?"

He replied: "No, I was telling him the truth, and it is quite obvious that the things that I've told him there are exactly corroborated with what you've told this commission, either in a private hearing or in the public hearing."

The hearings continue.

A police spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that Mr Purcell was on leave from his job as commander of Hurstville police station. "He has not been stood down by the service," she said.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

NY: Teen Gets "Upper Foot" On Pervert

A 14-year-old Staten Island girl proved she was tougher than anyone imagined after she fought off a pervert by kicking him in the crotch.

The eighth-grader was on her way home from school Tuesday when a man tailed her in his car on Clove Road, got out, gripped her wrist and tried to pull her into the vehicle.

"He came out and grabbed my wrist, tight. And said, 'Get inside the car!' He was yelling. I said, 'No!' and I was screaming for help," said the poised West Brighton teen, whose name is being withheld by the Daily News.

Construction workers across the street either didn't hear her over their jackhammer or thought she was fooling around and didn't come to her aid, she said. Then she remembered a safety tip she was taught in second grade.

"I kicked him in his private area," the plucky teen told The News. "It just came into my head."

She kicked, then bolted.

But the fiend chased her for at least a block, stopping only when he saw she was heading back to her intermediate school, police sources said.

The brave teen ran into the school, and the principal called the cops.

The girl helped police create a sketch of her would-be abductor and showed officers the stretch on Clove Road near Forest Ave. where he had grabbed her.

"She's very quiet," said the girl's 20-year-old sister. "I would never think she would be capable of that, but she handled herself beautifully."

"I think what I did was smart, and very brave," the victim said. "I hope that they find the guy and put him in jail for life."

The eighth-grader said she is shaken by the incident. She's afraid to walk by herself and was grateful when her teachers got volunteers to walk her home.

"When I walk down the street, I wonder, 'Is he stalking me? Is he behind me?'" she said. Usually, she said, her boyfriend walks her home.

Her family moved to Staten Island from Pennsylvania only a year ago, and the attack did nothing to make her feel at home.

"I'm from the suburbs, and stuff like that didn't happen," she said. "When that happened to me, I hated New York. But now I've calmed down."

The suspect is described as Hispanic, 40 to 50 years old, 5-feet-10 with a thin build. He wore square-rimmed glasses and blue jeans and had a heavily pocked face.

He drove a rusted white four-door sedan.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.

NY: Bribe Offered in Slavery Case


Federal prosecutors leveled new accusations yesterday against a couple charged with keeping slaves in their Muttontown mansion, describing an attempt to buy off one of the alleged victims.

The bombshell claim in U.S. District Court in Central Islip dashed any hope that Mahender Sabhnani and his wife, Varsha, had of being released on bail after spending the 10 days since their arrest on forced labor charges in the county lockup.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Demetri Jones said the government learned early yesterday that Varsha Sabhnani's mother allegedly offered 250 million Indonesian rupiahs - $2,500 in U.S. currency - through an intermediary to the son-in-law of a victim identified in court papers only as Samirah if she would return to her homeland.

"Clearly, they are trying to bribe [Samirah] to make the criminal prosecution go away," Jones argued before Federal Judge Thomas Platt.

Jones said Varsha Sabhnani comes from a wealthy and influential family in Indonesia.

"We can't protect [Samirah's] family," the prosecutor added. "If it happened in the U.S., [Varsha's mother] would be sitting in jail next to her daughter and son-in-law."

The judge ordered the government to obtain sworn affidavits from the victim's son-in-law and the intermediary about the alleged bribe and scheduled the next court appearance for Wednesday.

The millionaire Sabhnanis, who own a successful perfume business, had hired two Indonesian women as domestic servants but didn't pay them, and the wife allegedly subjected the women to beatings, psychological torture and neglect, according to court papers.

Wearing jailhouse jumpsuits, the couple pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging them with forced labor and harboring illegal aliens. If convicted, they could face up to 20 years in prison and the seizure of their $2 million home in which the alleged victims were kept prisoners.

Another prosecutor, Mark Lesko, said the Sabhnanis' substantial finances remain murky, which makes them great risks to flee if released on bail.

"We might as well give them a ride to the tarmac at JFK Airport," Lesko warned the judge. "They have enough money to not just lease a plane - they could buy a plane."

Lawyer Joseph Conway, who represents the couple's oldest daughter, Pooja, said outside court, "We are pretty confident those [bribe] allegations will be withdrawn or proven to be false."

Pooja Sabhnani left in a $60,000 Porsche SUV without speaking to reporters.

Friday, May 25, 2007

NY: Pieces of Dismembered Body Found - Help ID the Body!


A cherry tattoo didn't help identify a woman whose partial remains washed up on the shore of a billionaire's Long Island estate.

Maybe her red, blood-soaked camisole will.

The Mamaroneck Police Department has teamed up with "America's Most Wanted" to try to identify a heavyset woman who was murdered, dismembered and her remains thrown into New York waterways - and catch the butcher who did it.

The first remains surfaced March 3 when a suitcase containing a decapitated female torso and some clothing floated onto a beach in Mamaroneck in Westchester County.

On March 27, a Long Island fisherman discovered a severed right leg among the rocks of Cold Spring Harbor.

The next day, a landscaper found a severed left leg that had washed ashore near the Long Island Sound estate of billionaire James Dolan.

DNA tests have shown the remains all belong to the same Hispanic or light-skinned black woman.

Cops say her body had been in the suitcase at least a week before it was discovered.

Torrential rains likely scattered the remains.

The black bag was an InGear Protege suitcase sold only at Wal-Mart.

In the suitcase were a pair of purple Champion sweatpants; a white long-sleeve T-shirt made by Voice and a red camisole with a Spanish label.

Scraps of paper found inside appeared to be torn from a calendar, with the word "cinco" and the phrase "begin to live."

Anyone with information about the victim is asked to call (800) CRIME-TV. All calls are kept confidential.

NY: Deadbeat judge jailed

Reynold Mason, a lawyer who rose to become the first Caribbean-born state Supreme Court judge, was led out of a Manhattan court in handcuffs yesterday and ordered jailed for refusing to pay nearly $270,000 in court-ordered child support.

Yesterday's court hearing was the first time Mason, who was booted from the bench in 2003, had come to the Manhattan court where his former wife, Tessa Abrams Mason, has been trying to get a 1998 agreement enforced.

Now a Realtor in Georgia, the Grenada-born Mason sat silently as his lawyer, Homer Richardson, argued that the deadbeat dad had no one to borrow money from and begged Justice Joan Lobis not to enforce an arrest warrant issued in April.

"The man came here knowing the consequences," said Richardson. "If he doesn't have the money, he can't pay. He's not going to make it in jail."

Mason told the judge he could no longer afford to pay the same amount of child support he had when he earned more than $136,000 on the bench. He said he has earned $68,000 selling real estate over the past two years.

But Lobis wasn't buying it.

"I have no alternative," she said. "There doesn't seem to be any excusable default."

Yet for his ex-wife, justice came a little too late.

She received notice yesterday that she was being evicted from the Long Island rental home she shares with their three children - ages 16, 14 and 9.

"I'm very sad. I couldn't even look at him," she said. "Why didn't he come with something, even a quarter? I would have worked it out. If I'd seen the money, it would have been a victory. I see no victory here."

Abrams Mason, 47, ran her husband's 1994 campaign for the Civil Court bench in Brooklyn, then helped him win election to the state Supreme Court, where he earned $136,700 a year.

But right after he took that seat in 1998, Mason, 57, left his pregnant wife and their two children. She's been suing him for child support since.

In 2003, Mason was kicked off the bench when Abrams Mason told the state Commission on Judicial Conduct that the former landlord-tenant lawyer had once dipped into a client's escrow account.

In a January interview with the Daily News, Abrams Mason claimed her husband paid off local politicians to get the Democratic endorsement for the bench. He vigorously denied the allegations.

CA: Dear Johns: For Shame!

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

It was launched with great fanfare last spring -- Operation Shame, a campaign to discourage the "johns" who drive Oakland, Calif.'s late-night streets to pick up prostitutes. At the heart of the campaign was a plan to arrest the johns (a slang term for men who solicit prostitutes) and then display their mugshot photos on prominent 10 feet by 22 feet billboards.

"We're going to shame the out-of-towners and locals who drive to our neighborhood to look for prostitutes," Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente told reporters at the time. Much of the prostitution problem was centered in the Fruitvale section of De La Fuente's 6th Council District, along the International Boulevard business thoroughfare that cuts through the southeastern end of Oakland.

A spokesperson for the Oakland Police Department, Sgt. Rob Stewart, said that the majority of the johns come from outside of Oakland.

The idea behind Operation Shame was that potential johns, seeing the faces of fellow solicitors on billboards, would figure that the potential of having their night-time wanderings come to the very public attention of spouses, relatives, neighbors or employers was not worth the risk. The operation was a project of De La Fuente's office, with the Oakland Police Department cooperating by providing the arrest booking photos.

Eight months later, the billboards have long since disappeared from International Boulevard but the prostitutes have not. On Redbook, an internet chat station that provides a forum for johns, the Oakland street pickings this month seemed as good as they have ever been.

Under the topic "International SW [streetwalking] Action is building up again," one poster recently wrote, "Man I drove down … International on weds wow from 25th to 46th street wall to wall youngsters hot ones black/Latina's/whites didn't see any Asians. Also today around noon one asain around 18th & international, and then a real hot latina in camo/army clothes out for fun."
"I did a sight seeing tour yesterday from downtown oakland …" another poster replied in agreement. "just guessing because i didn't count -- but there had to be at least 50 ladies out in the sunshine in [Oakland] alone."
A drive down International Boulevard at any time of day or night confirms their observation that Oakland's prostitute quarter is as busy as it ever was -- young, well-dressed women in short skirts or shorts still work the pickup areas they commonly call "the stroll," walking nonchalantly from block to block, congregating on corners, catching the eyes of men in slowly passing cars, hustling to jump in when passenger doors fly open.

So what happened?

While five of the billboards did go up last spring -- locations donated by communications giant Clear Channel -- the effectiveness of the shame campaign was undercut at the very beginning by a small constitutional issue apparently overlooked initially by Oakland officials: the concept of innocent until proven guilty. The city had planned to put the faces of arrested johns on the billboards, but constitutional rights advocates quickly pointed out that this opened up the city to potential high-figure lawsuits from any billboarded men who were later exonerated at trial.
"That someone can be punished without being convicted is a violation of our civil liberties," San Francisco magazine quoted John Crew, an attorney in the ACLU's San Francisco office. "People could equate arrest with guilt."
So instead of identifiable pictures on the billboards, the city eventually opted to use the photos of four men recently arrested for solicitation, but with their faces so blurred as to be unidentifiable. "How much clearer do we have to make it?" the billboards proclaimed. "Don't 'john' in Oakland."

At a June press conference underneath one of the billboards, De La Fuente announced, "This is your last and final warning." If johns did not heed that warning, he promised, the next round of billboards would show the mens' faces, unfettered.

The second round of billboards never went up. And De La Fuente's widely reported warning was recently dismissed by Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks, who represents the district adjacent to De La Fuente's and has frequently clashed with the council president on various issues.
"There's no shame if no one actually sees your face," Brooks said in an interview. "You have to put the whole billboard program into context and decide whether or not it comes from a real desire to be effective, or if it comes from someone who was just trying to position himself for the mayor's race. They got all the publicity over the billboards when they were originally put up. But once the hype was out there, they didn't feel they had to do anything else."
De La Fuente is an announced candidate in this year's election to succeed the outgoing Jerry Brown as mayor of Oakland.

Brooks said she was putting more faith in frequent stings operated by the Oakland Police Department, in which police decoys pose as either prostitutes or johns. She said the city should also increase programs to work with the prostitutes themselves, trying to find ways to get them off the streets and into more productive -- and legal -- activities. "I think those type of activities are far more effective than the billboards ever were," she said.

De La Fuente was not available for comment for this story. As for the billboards themselves, the idea seems to have been quietly dropped, with the police department spokesperson saying he did not know if it was going to be relaunched with undimmed booking photos.
"You're going to have to ask Mr. De La Fuente's office about that," Sgt. Stewart said. "Our department was simply cooperating with him. We weren't in charge of it."
Other communities around the country have tried similar programs to Oakland's Operation Shame, with mixed results., an Oklahoma City website that bills itself as "one Oklahoma man's effort to target, expose and impact street and organized prostitution and the sexual trafficking of individuals," recently reported an unsuccessful effort to rent billboards "to regularly post the mug shot of a recently convicted 'John' to serve as a reminder to others that engaging in the solicitation of prostitution is not worth the consequences. Unfortunately, "the website noted, the billboard company "felt this would be too controversial and denied's request."

But the billboard shaming policy is apparently widespread enough that a "Re-visioning Prostitution Policy: Creating Space for Sex Worker Rights and Challenging Criminalization" convention of sex workers in Las Vegas scheduled for this summer lists as one workshop topic "the effects of punitive policies which target clients ( shaming and billboard campaigns, etc.)."

Meanwhile, even with an increased Oakland police crackdown on prostitution with other methods, including seizing and confiscating the cars of men arrested for picking up streetwalkers, the johns on Redbook do not seem deterred about continuing to cruise Oakland's streets for prostitutes.
"With all the car seizure laws and police presence, why hasn't the track moved to a neighboring city like Berkeley?" one contributor posted last November. "Either it means that the car seizure laws are completely ineffective in cutting down street prostitution, or they are really not enforcing it."
The police "are always around," another poster cautioned. "don't let your guard down for 1 second. always keep your eyes and ears open." But, apparently, he believed the risk was worth it. "Since the sun has come out there are lots of goodies out there," he added. "every day and every night you can find 'em."