Sunday, November 23, 2008

Are most people totally f*'ing stupid, racist, or what?


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Aiding Former [Connecticut] Hartford Officer
Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund: An Uneven Split

By MATTHEW KAUFFMAN | The Hartford Courant
November 23, 2008


The appeal arrives on the personalized stationery of Mrs. Stephanie Lawlor, an emotional plea for contributions to a legal defense fund for her husband, former Hartford cop Robert Lawlor, who was indicted on "trumped-up charges" in the 2005 shooting death of 18-year-old Jashon Bryant.

The heartfelt note cites Lawlor's service in the Marines, his merit awards from the Justice Department and his close calls — he was stabbed once and shot at twice on the mean streets of the city.

The entreaty, suggesting donations starting at $25, is capped with a color photograph of a beaming Robert Lawlor, surrounded by his wife and six smiling daughters — "who may not see their dad again for the next 20 years!"

Lawlor's request has landed in mailboxes all over the country. And it is a fund drive that works.

The nonprofit behind the note, the Virginia-based Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, has already sent $45,000 to Lawlor and his attorney, with thousands more expected.

But to come up with all that cash, executives at the nonprofit are counting on Stephanie Lawlor's letter to generate vastly more money in donations to cover steep fundraising costs, hefty executive salaries and other administrative expenses.

Tens of thousands of Americans have contributed to the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund after reading letters like Stephanie Lawlor's. But while those donations total millions every year, the fund spends only pennies on the dollar directly assisting officers facing criminal charges, state and federal filings show.

Over the past five years, the charity collected more than $13 million, primarily through direct-mail pitches. But most of that money — more than $9 million — went right back to the professional fundraisers hired by the nonprofit legal defense fund.

Last year, for example, the group spent 81 cents on fundraising for every dollar collected, according to federal tax forms. After other expenses, the defense fund last year devoted only about 8 cents on the dollar to charitable grants, the tax forms show.

That grant money — about $275,000 — was less than the group's co-founders paid themselves in salary and benefits for the year. David H. Martin, a Washington lawyer who serves as chairman, collected $156,000, while Alfred Regnery, publisher of The American Spectator Magazine, received $81,000 for the part-time job of secretary-treasurer. In addition, the charity paid $54,000 into retirement accounts for Martin and Regnery.

In a telephone interview earlier this month, Martin said the charity is at the mercy of expensive mail solicitations. "It's hard to raise money through direct mail. Why? Because postage is so expensive," he said. "It's just a killer."

Martin said he believed the group's fundraising efficiency had consistently improved in recent years. But federal filings suggest just the opposite, showing the cost of raising money increasing each of the last five years, from about 60 cents in fundraising costs for every dollar raised in 2003, to 81 cents last year.

At the same time, administrative costs have soared, particularly for salaries and rent. For years, the legal defense fund was run out of Martin's law office. But the nonprofit now subleases space at Regnery's financially strapped American Spectator. The initial rent in 2003 was $9,000 a year, but the nonprofit agreed last year to increase its payments to $42,000 a year — about a third of the total rent for the American Spectator's space. Martin said the rent covers a large amount of storage space and offices for himself and a clerk, and he said he thought the rent was fair.

And even as the charity devoted only a small fraction of its budget to grants, not all of the money doled out went to help accused officers. Instead, the charity's executives have sent a sizable and growing amount of cash to a small number of universities and conservative policy groups not mentioned in their fundraising pitches.

The charity's biggest beneficiary last year, for example, was not a police officer, but the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a national campus-based think tank that promotes "limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, the rule of law, market economy, and moral norms."

The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund sent $75,000 to the institute last year, part of at least $360,000 the defense fund has pledged. Regnery, secretary-treasurer of the defense fund, is chairman of the institute's board of trustees. The charity has also given tens of thousands of dollars to the Federalist Society, described by The American Conservative magazine as a "training ground for young conservative lawyers"; to the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University in Virginia, a leading center of conservative and libertarian legal studies; and to a project at McDaniel College — Martin's alma mater.

Martin said the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund takes a long-term view of its goal of helping police officers, and that its founding documents permit it to spend donor money to "improve citizens' understanding of how tough it is to be a law enforcement officer, and to present the opposite view of many academics, who view almost any action a police officer engages in as police brutality."

Hartford attorney Michael Georgetti, who represents Lawlor, said the legal defense fund made the first contact, asking if Georgetti and Lawlor would be interested in having the group solicit donations.

"Of course we would," Georgetti said. "Bob Lawlor did not have and does not have the resources to defend a case like this. There are very few people who could afford to defend a case like this."

The legal defense fund has paid for ballistics and use-of-force consultants, and has helped with living expenses for Lawlor. Last year, when Georgetti had to interrupt a vacation in Italy and return to argue before the state Appellate Court, the legal defense fund sent $5,000 to cover his unexpected travel expenses.

"We try to fund as much of the legal fees and the expert fees as we can," Martin said. "That's our goal. We don't always do it. But I would say in 95 percent of our cases, we cover all of the expenses."

But that is not likely to happen in the Lawlor case. Georgetti, who has asked the state Supreme Court to rule on an issue even before Lawlor's trial has begun, said the complex case has generated extraordinary legal fees and expenses. "It's already a six-figure case. And this is one of those cases that could turn into a seven-figure case," he said.

Lawlor, an 18-year veteran with the Hartford force, was working with a federal agent as part of an anti-gun task force on May 7, 2005, when he said he saw Jashon Bryant holding a gun as he got into a friend's car. The officers approached the car, and when the vehicle began moving toward them, Lawlor fired five shots, saying he feared the federal agent was going to be hit and that he believed Bryant was reaching for a gun. Bryant was struck in the head and died. Police later found cocaine in the car, but no weapon.

Hartford police ruled the shooting justified. But after hearing from 48 witnesses, an investigatory grand jury recommended that Lawlor face charges.

In her fundraising note, Stephanie Lawlor says her husband is the victim of a racially charged prosecution led by Waterbury State's Attorney John Connelly.

"All that matters to the politically connected bureaucrats here in Connecticut is that my husband is a white police officer who was forced to shoot a black suspect in the line of duty," she writes.

The charity's fundraising often includes a personal and emotional letter from the officer or a relative. To raise money for Stephanie Mohr, a former officer in Prince George's County, Md., who is serving a 10-year sentence for releasing her police dog on a burglary suspect, the defense fund's letter looked as though Mohr had typed it on a prison typewriter.

"Dear Caring Friend," the letter began, "It's cold in here. And I'm not sure if my hands are shaking from the cold, from fear, or because I'm about to cry — again."

A fellow officer testified that Mohr released the dog on a compliant homeless man after another officer asked a supervisor, "Sarge, can the dog get a bite?" Mohr denied that and said she released the dog because the suspect made a motion suggesting he was about to flee.

Regardless, her 2004 mailing brought in nearly $280,000 in donations, winning the charity an award from the Direct Marketing Association.

The legal defense fund, founded after the 1991 videotaped beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police, supports about five or six cases at a time, generally accepting only those that receive the unanimous support of the board of directors, which includes Martin, Regnery and three unpaid trustees: former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III; former Assistant U.S. Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds and Eugene Methvin, a senior editor at Readers Digest.

The charity's officials say they are troubled by cases in which officers face criminal charges for their split-second decision under difficult and often dangerous conditions.

"An officer in a tense situation has about three seconds to decide if he uses force, and it's a difficult decision," Martin said. "We decided that it was unfair — even if it's a mistake of judgment, even if an officer makes the wrong decision — we decided it was wrong to criminalize that."

Back in Connecticut, Lawlor's manslaughter trial has been delayed while the state Supreme Court considers whether he is entitled to see the original application a prosecutor filed requesting the grand jury. While he waits, his bills grow.

Georgetti — Lawlor's lawyer — said he was not familiar with the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund's finances, but added that he does not have the luxury of worrying about the efficiency of the group's fundraising or its choice of causes.

"Both Bob Lawlor and I are just thankful that someone has reached out to us and helped us," Georgetti said. "In the world that I'm in and Bob Lawlor's in, that's what matters to me."

Lawlor's appeal to the public pdf [click here]

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A post on "typical" police misconduct [click here]

Previous post on the "Teflon Badge", Robert Lawlor [click here]

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New Milford Connecticut Police Officer Scott Smith allegedly stood on an African American's back and executed him, firing next to his boot. The Connecticut prosecutor allegedly purposely botched the case so Smith could skate on appeal. Smith got a year SUSPENDED sentence for murder.

Will the same prosecutor intentionally botch Robert Lawlor's case?



This is how cops told the Smith Story:

Officer Charged with Murdering Violent Criminal

A plainclothes detective with the New Milford, Connecticut Police Department has been charged with the murder of a dangerous felon during an attempt to arrest him. Officer Scott Smith, 27, a highly respected two-year veteran of the force who had never fired his weapon in the line of duty, discharged one bullet that killed suspect Franklyn Reid, an illegal alien set for deportation by the U.S, Immigration Service.

Franklyn Reid's long arrest record included assault, sexual assault, resisting arrest, harassment, weapon in an automobile, and breach of the peace. He had a felony conviction for stabbing and seriously injuring a person with a knife in New Milford. He also had a history of assaulting and threatening the mother of his three children. A report by the State's Attorney claims that Reid had, at different occasions, pointed a gun at the mother's head, held a knife to her throat, and clutched an axe to her neck while telling onlookers that he would kill her. The same report quotes Reid as saying that he would "never be taken alive."

He was well-known to the New Milford Police Department for these charges, and for his attempt to knife an officer when he was arrested in May of 1998. In September 1998, he threatened to kill his own probation officer. He was rightly considered as an armed, violent and dangerous felon by the New Milford P.D.

On December 29, 1998, Franklyn Reid, then wanted on five arrest warrants, was spotted in New Milford by Officers Shortt and Scott Smith. Upon seeing the officers, Reid bolted and ran down a busy street, Route 202. Officer Smith pursued him on foot while Detective Shortt followed in the police car.

Officer Smith identified himself as a police officer and repeatedly ordered Reid to stop and raise his hands. As the officer chased him on Route 202, Reid suddenly stopped in the middle of the road. The officer ordered him to raise his hands, which were folded and hidden from view inside the front of his jacket. When he failed to comply and appeared confrontational, Officer Smith feared that Reid, who boasted he would never be taken alive, was about to draw a weapon.

The officer drew his service weapon and again ordered Reid to show his hands. Officer Smith approached and grabbed the suspect's right shoulder with his left arm extended, ordering Reid to lay down on the grass next to the road. He resisted, but the officer managed to get him on his knees.

Suddenly Reid started to stand up again, putting both hands inside the front of his jacket. Smith, who had his left hand on Reid's shoulder, instinctively felt that Reid was about to draw a weapon and again firmly ordered him to raise his hands. Instead Reid lunged upward and moved his arms up from his midsection. Sustained with the knowledge that Reid was a dangerous and armed felon capable of violence, and fearing at that moment that Reid had a gun or a knife that he was about to use, Smith fired one shot [discharged his weapon one time] which hit Reid's spine. Officer Shortt arrived on the scene and administered first aid. Reid was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. A serrated knife with a 2-3/4" blade was found in the pocket of Reid's jacket.

This fatal incident was not the first time that Officer Smith had attempted to arrest Reid. Three months earlier, he had tried to serve the warrants on him without success. Officer Smith knew that the warrants involved death threats to Reid's probation officer and to the mother of Reid's children. The New Milford Police Department had advised that caution should be used in arresting Reid, as he was known to be violent and capable of killing.

Officer Smith, as mentioned, had never fired his service weapon on duty and was not known as a reckless cop. He is now on paid administrative leave and has the full support of the New Milford P.D.

The above [found here]

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My opinion on [OpEd]

my email: stevengerickson@yahoo.com

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