Monday, April 30, 2012

McNamara plans cold case squad to clear 53 killings

Retired cops, detectives seconded to unit

Tokio – When a human being finds another human murdered, it causes extreme feelings – alarm, fear, foreboding.

It's not easy to look at another person whose remains have been tossed aside like a sack of garbage. The first, primitive reaction would be to run. Whomever or whatever got this person might get you.

It's not easy to look at another person whose remains have been tossed aside, like a sack of garbage.

That's where the trained, experienced investigator comes in. He or she is there to work.

It's in the tiny details that these depredations are solved, the facts and testimony, physical evidence and clues assembled that will give a judge and jury a clear picture of what, in fact, happened, and exactly how it happened.

Once that has been accomplished, it's up to the prosecutors to present the case, and even if there is no conviction obtained, the matter is said to have been cleared.

What about the cases that are not cleared? They are said to remain “open,” a bleak term that means no real conclusions have been deduced, no clear-cut, conclusive evidence obtained.

The cold case joins the dozens of others that languish in files and banker boxes, photos, reports, lab analyses and odd pieces of property filed and stacked neatly on the shelves of the evidence locker.

There are 53 such cases sharing that status in McLennan County at this time. Retired U.S. Deputy Marshal Parnell McNamara and his sidekick Texas Ranger Matt Cawthon have a plan, a remedy for that.

Retired cops and investigators have approached them wanting to work as volunteers to help clear these cases. There are DNA tests to be performed, time lines to be re-thought, witnesses to be interviewed a second time, and pieces of evidence to examine all over again.

There is a reason why it's a cold case. It's not easy; it's hard, hard to do...

The families get closure, the victims get justice, we clear the case – hey, it's a win-win situation, any way you look at it,” said Matt Cawthon as he visited, along with Marshal McNamara, and other members of the posse, at the Musicians' Reunion at Al's Tokio Store Sunday afternoon.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A fandango along the watchtower at space and time

Casey Kelley vocalizes, Dave Giddens stratocasts at Tokio  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Off-the-shelf tech 'empowers' Texas Sheriffs

Drug wars make local lawmen combatants

Austin – In an office building located somewhere in this capitol city, a close-knit group of intelligence officers headed by the Texas Rangers fights a border war with serious consquences.

It's called the Border Security Operations Center (BSOC).

This is a hot war, one fought against guns and bombs, bullets and knives, with GPS systems, deer cameras, pressure sensors - and cell phones.

Sheriff's departments are the key to the struggle, according to two of the nation's top military strategists.

Narcotics cartels do much more than smuggle drugs across the border. They also traffic in human sex slaves, launder money, recruit high school-aged children as gun-toting soldiers, and carry out terror operations against farmers and ranchers.

Every day, illegal immigrants looking for work in agricultural fields or in industrial settings are co-opted by terror soldiers trained by the likes of Mexican Army Special Ops deserters such as the Zetas Cartel.

They are interrogated; their origins in the interior of Mexico are learned, their close relatives identified. At that point, they are enslaved, made to tend to crops of marijuana, to mule loads of illicit narcotics or duffel bags of money returning to Mexico – or else their parents, kids, brothers and sisters will perish by the sword in their home villages.

To do all this, the cartels have sought to obtain a border “cushion” a “sanitary zone” of impunity from the Mexican law – one county in depth - on the Texas side of the international border.

In a 59-page report released last September by their organization, COLGEN, the generals came up with some top advice that dovetails with the state's best efforts to stem the tide of unwanted crime and drugs along the nation's longest and loneliest line of demarcation, The Rio Grande.

A former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, Gen. Scales likened the operation to a tripartite problem in the realities of combat learned in the Persian Gulf region in two recent wars.

Operational integrity depends on flexibility and a high degree of mobility.

The idea that a single point defense could interdict persons crossing the border violates a tenet of war; narrow, single point defenses are both porous and brittle, and can eaily be defeated by an intruder that manages to 'break through' by piercing a single defensive line and moving very quickly into the undefended areas deeper in the state and beyond.”

They found that the Texas Department of Public Safety uses a layered “defense in depth” at the tactical and operational levels,” an approach that “seeks to extend interdiction beginning with a low-cost interconneted set of sensors that extends from the banks of the Rio Gande inward through the entire depth of the southwestern border counties.”

These points are linked to regional command and control facilities with GPS and cell phones.

The key: Proliferation and tactical depth is gained “at the sacrifice of sophistication.”

Tactical emphasis on security systems recognizes that “border sheriffs are overwhelmed by the threat of narco-terrorism...sheriffs are the close combat forces of the narco-war and it becomes a matter of first priority that sheriffs have all they need to achieve success.”

As always, the Rangers work very closely with the Sheriff's Departments to see to they are not overpowered.

The Rangers' tactical method includes the time-honored military adage that goes like this. “The enemy has a vote.”

Strategy is basic enough. Among senior leaders with the Texas DPS, the generals report, “They accede to the fact that much of their effort was derived from experience in recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan...As with any military-style effort, strategic success is dependent on shared intent.”

What of the Secure Border Initiative? It's not over until it's over. It seems that the Nogales, Arizona, area has seen a new emphasis on electronic surveillance.

Customs and Border Protection intends to buy towers equipped with ground radars and surveillance cameras in Arizona. The basic idea is to remotely man the towers so that someone in a control room can watch a broad swath of border.

But Customs and Border Protection official Mark Borkowski says it’s a much less ambitious system.

"As we were building SBINet, we had industry and representatives of the Department of Defense coming to us and saying why are you doing that, why are you trying to create something that has all of those bells and whistles. The basic stuff you need is just cameras and radars," Borkowski said.

Borkowski says the contracts should be awarded by October.

Robber released on PR, later charged with rape

Slow indictment prompted release
- U.S. Marshals made the arrest 

Waco – No matter how you describe the offenses of a man accused of aggravated robbery and aggravated sexual assault, both are crimes against a person, and both involve violence against a woman.

On Oct. 3, an unnamed female left her Bellmead area business with a bank sack. Booker Vantwon Sterling, 24, spotted the cash she was carrying to deposit in a downtown Waco bank.

He and another man, who were driving a Chevrolet Caprice later reported stolen, in broad daylight rammed her Suburban SUV from the rear at the downtown corner of 4th and Franklin.

She alighted to check the damage, and Mr. Sterling forced her back into her vehicle at gunpoint. He ordered her to drive away into East Waco.

Officers later found a Halloween mask he was wearing in the victim's vehicle, which he abandoned after a quick thinking eye witness phoned police to report the carjacking. His victim escaped unhurt.

When the Grand Jury indicted Mr. Sterling on Jan. 6, 2012, three days after the 90 days allowed to return an indictment under Texas court rules had expired, Criminal District Judge Ralph Strother ordered his release on Personal Recognizance on Jan. 20.

Under the conditions of this bond, he was required only to sign a chattel agreement to forfeit assets or property worth $50,000 after the original $95,000 bond had first been raised to $100,000, then lowered to half that amount. The transaction required no outlay of cash.

Mr. Sterling was free to go his own way in return for his promise to appear in court to answer the charge of aggravated robbery of a woman whom he and a fellow assailant attacked with a stolen motor vehicle.

His freedom did not last long.

On April 19, Deputy U.S. Marshal Anton Slavich arrested Mr. Sterling for aggravated sexual assault. Criminal District Judge Matt Johnson set his bond at $30,000.

Officer Slavich is  member of the U.S. Marshal's Service Fugitive Warrants Division, though a booking card filled out at the County Jail, identifies Officer Slavich as a Waco Police Department officer. Another similar document identifies Officer Slavich as a Department of Public Safety employee.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Committee preparing contempt citation for Holder

Alleged failure to honor subpoenas

Washington – The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said today it is preparing a Contempt of Congress citation for Attorney General Eric Holder.

Though a final decision on issuing the citation hasn't been made, an official said the citation could be avoided if the Justice Department produces documents sought by the committee regarding Operation Fast and Furious. The official is unnamed in published reports because he has not been authorized to make a statement on the subject.

In Operation Fast and Furious, U.S. agents hoping to track weapons allowed hundreds of guns to flow from U.S. gun shops in Arizona into Mexico. Two of the guns were later discovered at the scene of the killing of a U.S. border agent.
The committee has subpoenaed nearly two dozen categories of documents on the Fast and Furious operation, but no documents have been produced from a dozen of those categories, the official said.
The Justice Department wrote Chairman Darrell Issa, R-CA, a letter dated April 19, saying it was regularly producing requested documents.
"We have provided documents to the committee at least twice every month since late last year as part of the department's ongoing efforts to comply with the committee's subpoenas and other requests for information," wrote Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hasan: 'Behavioral indicators' and 'unlawful influence'

Lawyers need more time to prepare
FORT HOOD — A military judge will consider postponing until October the trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan. 

His attorneys asked that the trial be delayed from June until October, saying they need more time to review the large volumes of evidence in the case.

The judge, Col. Gregory Gross, previously delayed the court-martial from March until June.

Col. Gross has given no indication when he will decide on the defense’s second request for a postponement.

Major Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder. He faces the death penalty if convicted in the November 2009 shootings on the Texas Army post.

Defense attorneys want to determine if anything was discussed that may have unlawfully influenced Hasan’s chain of command to prosecute him.

Unlawfully influenced them to prosecute him?

Was there ever a possibility that he would not be prosecuted for murdering 13 unarmed Americans in an Islamic jihad attack?

Engineers, architects point to thermite use in 9/11

Experts insist towers fell in demolition

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

U.S. challenge to Arizona immigration law - preemptive?

Reason TV's Damon Root characterizes the nature of the argument today as one examining if the state law is pre-emptive of the federal role of securing the borders against illegal immigration.

Protesters attempt raid on Wells Fargo meeting

Focus on private jails, prisons

San Francisco – Hundreds of protesters from the Occupy Wall Street spinoff group, Occupy San Francisco, converged on Wells Fargo Bank headquarters to protest the corporation's involvement with financing privately operated prisons and jails.

Many of the protesters had bought single shares of stock in the banking corporation and were prepared to ask questions in order to disrupt the annual shareholders meeting.

They were turned away at the door.

Protesters marched, chanting and bearing signs, from the Embarcadero on the bay shore at the foot of California Street to the bank's corporate headquarters several blocks away.

Their goals: To eliminate private financing of privately operated county jails, federal lockups and state prisons; forgiveness on the principal of government-guaranteed student loans, a slowdown on foreclosures of homes, and greater regulation of banking practices.

Unions such as the Service Employees International were heavy supporters of the march, parading with their logos emblazoned on their t-shirts.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Modern sculptress chronicles territorial imperative

Whiskey's for drinking; water's for fighting over.

Lake Whitney – A lakeside property dispute has become so ugly that members of a rural Bosque County property owners association have begun to call law enforcement officers on each other for driving on the roads that lead to their retirement homes.

An elderly sculptress became so embroiled in the land dispute that members of a neighborhood watch held her until officers from a neighboring county and the distant city of Clifton arrived to detain her for a Bosque County deputy.

Her crime? She took a wrong turn in the dark, wound up in front of the wrong house making a u-turn, and the rest is history.

When the Deputy Sheriff from Bosque County arrived, he issued her a warning citation for driving her car on a private road, one for which which as a property owner, she claims collective ownership.

Maezell Powell does not want to be photographed. She is shy of the video camera, too, and blames her fears on a heated dispute over ownership of the roads in the rural subdivision of 5-acre ranchettes where she lives on the shores of Lake Whitney.

“They're trying to take my land away from me,” she states in a forthright tone. What's more, she claims a couple who serve as officers in the local property owners association subjected her to false imprisonment by parking their pickup truck behind her van and keeping her from leaving once she arrived at her friends' house.

Where previously land owners and visitors had been allowed access to drive four-wheel vehicles on the “Corps Road” and fish along the lake shores by parking at the end of roads mutually owned by the property owners association, they are now prohibited from driving down and parking on them on pain of being arrested for criminal trespassing.

Either the U.S. government and the Brazos River Authority is fencing people out, or they are fencing something in. That something is water, and it's definitely not free. 

It's a long story, but the conflict between Ms. Powell and road maintenance supervisor and association officer Morris Wilkins and his wife Cindy culminated in a showdown in which Mr. and Mrs. Wilkins chased her off the road where they live, followed her to a neighbor's property, held there until their son and a Hill County deputy arrived from across the lake, and waited for a Bosque County Deputy to arrive.

At one point earlier, she stood in front of Mr. Wilkins' tractor as he tried to grade a road that passes in front of her property.

“She said that was her road and he couldn't grade it,” recalls Mrs. Wilkins.

All the archetypal western lines of tension are in the story. There are the fences, the disputes over water, access, law officers – and there is even a connection to a colorful and violent past on the Texas prairies.

Maezell Powell's great grandmother Louvella Turner settled and homesteaded near the Staked Plains town of Spur about 1890 after arriving from Illinois.

It was the height of the buffalo harvest by hunters and skinners who slaughtered the Native Americans' staple game animal, the American bison.

The young woman would often round up baby buffalo and herd them back to her ranch, where she raised them.

Soon, a clay sculpture of the young woman mounted on horseback and a buffalo following along with her will be cast in bronze and added to her extensive collection of westeren paintings.

Drug/DWI Court tracks facts with new iPad, laptop

Waco - County Court-at-Law Judge Mike Freeman showed up in Commissioners' Court a week ago on Tuesday, 4/17/12, to deliver a report about going through the motions to comply with a mandatory state drug and drunk driving diversion program.

The judge presented an inked-in, crossed-out receipt from the local Best Buy big box store for a new iPad and a laptop computer for $1,129.96 for “The purchase of an I Pad 3, an air box, and a notebook with a key board.”

The receipt is dated Monday, 4/16/12.

Judge Freeman also sought approval to spend $500 “to assist one of our participants with an anxiety disorder aiding him with assistance from a local psychiatrist” and a payment of $1,500 per year for defense attorneys “on the DWI/Drug Court team.”

In his recitals, the judge said a team of 5 people from McLennan County “attended the National Drug Court Program for approximately three days” in July of 2007.

In September of that year, the legislature enacted a mandate requiring every county of 200,000 or more population to establish a drug court, “and provided that such programs could charge a fee not to exceed $1,000 per participate (sic) and also provided funds to said programs by accessing to each individual defendant, charged with a crime that involved alcohol or drugs, an additional cost to run these programs.”

McLennan County now has $132,000 “in said account,” according to the judge. “We have been very frugal over the years as to how this money was used,” Judge Freeman stated.

In his written report, he offered no total numbers of participants who either did, or did not graduate. 
Almost half the offenders who participated in the program are youthful, aged 18 to 25; about one fourth are 25 to 35, with the remainder evenly distributed betweeen those who are aged 45 to 55, and older. Slightly more than 70 percent graduate from the program with a sobriety time of 463 days; the unsuccessful candidates amass an average of 241 days of sobriety.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cold blue steel floats in So. Congress air...

Blues harpists mourn Gary Primich

Austin – The Continental Club opened its doors on a sunny Sunday afternoon to honor Gary Primich, a cat on harp out of Chicago who made Ostentatious his home and owned the cold blue steel sound of the Mississippi saxophone.

They say Mr. Primich emulated the riffs and repeated phrases and choruses of none other than Charles “Bird” Parker of Kansas City and points east and west, and it showed in his work, once he had paid his dues.

When a local fret-fingering, finger-poppin' daddy'o stepped up and leaned into it, “Ornithology” wafted out of his Gibson fret hole archtop electric – and it was on. (click here for a sample of Bird's stuff strummed on double upright bass)

Omar Dykes and the Howlers, Mike Morgan and the Crawl, et. al., conspired to give it that old one-two - double-four time - and the people boogied, moved, grooved and danced their sweet patooties off in the rarefied atmosphere of the old live blues venue cross the river, the Continental.

I have spoken. Now, let the harp speak. - The Legendary

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Saving Texas dance halls - one two step at a time

Austin outfit researching dance halls

 Stephen Dean is cataloguing and making a directory on Texas' most precious musical resource available - the dance halls. "We have information on more than 500 of these places and we aim to keep them open," he told The Legendary backstage at The Continental Club on South Congress Sunday afternoon. 

Check him out here:

 - The Legendary

Weapon of mass destruction in the court of the mind

 An attack by an Improvised Explosive Device

“...the capacity for evil from an enemy that loves death...” - former Col. Brian Birdwell, Senator, Texas District 22 “...The culture that hates us and attacked us is still out there.” (scroll to the bottom of the article for an exclusive video interview and presentation by veteran photojournalist Jim Peeler of KWTX Television)

Waco – Lest we the people forget, terrorism only works when it causes those who are attacked – their institutions and friends and families – to alter the things they do, what they think, and the way they feel in some permanent and significant way.

Only time will tell the story, make the determination if that is true of we the People of the United States of America.

But it's the little things, the tiny details of life and what is reported in any given news cycle on any otherwise ordinary day that really counts, really makes the impression, and carries the freight of psychological warfare to and from our secret hearts, the places where we really live.

On Friday, April 20, a young man who deserted his post as a soldier of the Army of the United States of America, attacked two of our most important citizen soldiers, a deputy U.S. Marshal and a McLennan County Deputy Sheriff's Officer.

Video surveillance cameras in an elevator at the Federal Courthouse captured the image of Naser Jason Abdo, a 22-year-old Pfc, as he bit the tissues of his lip and tongue, then spat bloody body fluids on his conductors as they escorted him to the federal lockup at the County Jail following an evidentiary hearing in U.S. District Court.

They had restrained him with chains that encircled his waist and attached to cuffs on his ankles and wrists.

Private Abdo is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, among eight other allegations of complaint stemming from a July 2011 arrest at a Killeen motel.

He had arrived there following his absenting himself from his post at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, where was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division's Company E, 1st Brigade Combat Team, on July 4.

Following the bloody attack on the court officers, federal officials submitted an affidavit of probable cause to a magistrate in a request for a warrant of search to obtain samples of Private Abdo's blood.

They suspect he may be infected with HIV or Hepatitis C virus. Their goal is to determine if they may charge him with an intentional attack using virally contagious blood bearing a sexually transmitted disease, thereby turning his body into a biological weapon. The U.S. Marshal's Service declined to comment on whether the magistrate has as yet granted the search warrant.

It is not a matter of idle speculation, for Private Abdo has made other threats. He told WSMV-TV in Nashville, Tennessee, that he intends to harm a highly placed public official he has refused to name.

Only moments before the attack on the officers, Judge Walter Smith had ruled against a motion by attorneys defending Private Abdo which sought to suppress certain similar threatening remarks he made at the time of his arrest. Judge Smith ruled that the statement may be used as evidence against him, though they allege they were made without his being advised that because anything he said could be used against him in court, he had a right to remain silent, and the counsel of an attorney.

According to the testimony of an FBI agent and a Killeen Police Department detective, officers did advise him of his right to remain silent and to seek the advice of an attorney.

He voluntarily chose to sign documents waiving those rights prior to questioning. They displayed those waivers as exhibits during the brief hearing.

It is not the first time the defendant has made outbursts in the courthouse. On July 29, 2011, he refused to stand as U.S. Magistrate Jeffrey Manske took the bench at his arraignment. Three Deputy U.S. Marshals physically removed him from the chair in which he sat and forced him to stand as the judge intoned the words of arraignment for possession of an unregistered firearm. Judge Manske ordered him to be held without bail at the county jail.

In later hearings, Private Abdo answered to additional charges of having bomb-making materials in his motel room at the time of his apprehension in July. He admitted at the time that he planned to turn those materials into improvised explosive devices and use them to attack soldiers and civilians at Ft. Hood.

The following is a comprehensive video report produced by KWTX news camera man Jim Peeler, an interview of Colonel Brian Birdwell, the survivor nearest the point of impact of an improvised explosive device, a Boeing 757 passenger airplane that crashed into America's principal military installation, The Pentagon, on September 11, 2001.

Col. Birdwell now serves as the State Senator of District 22.

Anything the Colonel says may be used as ammunition in defense of we the people of the United States of America. Mr. Peeler made his production available for public sharing as a project produced on Vimeo. It is offered here in the face of implacable hostility and aggression inflicted through psychological means against we the people of our nation.

God save the United States of America, for it is in God we trust.

- The Legendary

Saturday, April 21, 2012

4:20 p.m. on 4/20 - on schedule and on the road again

Fumes of yerba buena wafting over Willie

Ring-a-ding-ding delight of basement and 4 stories

Sam Wo's - No more slam bang theater

San Francisco – Three A.M. comes late if you're out walking one morning for pleasure, and only moderately early if you're headed for work shoveling herring or fileting sole.

Where Wooey Looey Gooey's (Phooey Louie's) stayed open all night just up the street and down the basement on the corner at Grant Ave., Sam Wo's at 813 Washington closed promptly at 3 – and didn't open again until the late hour of 9 or 10, when you could hear the grating and rattling progress of the Powell and Hyde cable car trundling corner to corner, its brassy bell ring-a-ding-dinging up and over Nob Hill to the downslope of Russian and thence to the foggy reach of the dock of the bay.

You entered 813 through Sam Wo's kitchen amid steamy shouting in Cantonese dialect, cleavers chop chopping on butcher blocks and the smells of unknown spices and peppers rising in a redolent, sinus-clearing cloud over the stoves, a world of slam-bang theater, steamed vegetables and thin-sliced beef or shredded pork sizzling in huge woks. (click here for the railroad view)

There was an incredibly narrow, very steep little stairway only wide enough to let drunken revelers climb head to butt - single file - that wound around the shaft of a dumbwaiter connecting the basement to the first-floor kithen, then to second and third-floor dining areas of only two or three tables on each postage stamp landing in this tiny building no more than thirty feet in width, where the waiters yelled their orders down to the cook through the shaft of the little elevator.

Parties traveling the opposite direction – up or down - were obliged, of course, to wait on the landings while the drunks filed by with all due grab-ass respect to the sensibilities which remind one that, "The people you meet on the way up are the same ones you meet on the way down," and words to that effect.

Your breakfast, lunch or dinner arrived in hot crockery with green tea and “no fortune cookies,” slammed on the table by the world-famous world's rudest waiters.

“No fortune cookie! You MUST pay cashier!”

That was Sam Wo's, a restaurant that made the list in “The Undergroud Gourmet,” a 60's-era guide to fine dining at $5 or less penned by a former staffer out of President Kennedy's White House press shop. Sam's served its last meal in the neighborhood of the “death of a thousand cuts” delivered by the likes of the Wah Ching and Joe Boy Hop Sing Tong at 3 a.m., PST. (don't take yourself so seriously)

That's about the time this race horse comes charging out of the starting gate on any given day.

Yes. Indeed.

Always did remind me of wild hickory nuts, and what's more, it's smack dab on the way to Montana. Yippie Yi Kai Yea. - The Legendary (click here for the minority report)

Friday, April 20, 2012

High Papalorum v. Low Papahiram - volcano blows

Black birds circle Popocatepetl

Drug Task Force positions still funded – Anonymous

Tipster says Sheriff still pays salaries

Waco – Informed by an Anonymous source in a comment on a story, The Legendary learned the McLennan County Sheriff's Department still pays the salaries of a sergeant, three deputies and a clerk once attached to the Agriplex Drug Task Force.

The comment came in response to the inteview of an area grandmother who only learned the whereabouts of her daughter and grandchild when the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Warrants Division apprehended a family member whose probation for felony drug offenses was revoked by the Court.
(click here for the back story)

The tipster at first said the current Sheriff's administration was telling a falsehood when Chief Deputy Randy Plemons explined in a debate held last month that money for Drug Task Force staff positions had “dried up” when grant funding expired.

There was a good reason for that, as it turns out. The salaries were never funded by a grant. Salaries were always paid by the County of McLennan.

The Sheriff's Department added an additional deputy and an investigator to the staff of the Investigations Division.

The Legendary requested more figures and facts and received this response about 2:30 p.m., CST, on Friday, April 20:

“Up until Oct 2006, those Task Force positions were funded by the county for the Agriplex Drug Task Force, since the grant did not allow for salaries. On October 1, 2006, the 1 sergeant, 1 corporal, 3 deputies and a clerk were all transferred.  (click here)

The sergeant, corporal and 3 deputies were transferred to Sheriff's Office along with the creation of a new investigator and a new deputy. The clerk was transferred to Records. 

But in the year that Plemons claims the budget "dried up" for those Task Force positions, all the positions were transferred to the Sheriff's Office, and they added an additional deputy and investigator on top of those. They also all got the 3% Cost of Living raise that every employee in the county got that October as well. So the positions not only were still funded, but also got a raise as well. 

As for the operating budget outside of salaries, that could be funded by seized property. No one seems to be sure about what happened to that money. Most believe it to on...” (for some reason, the transmission terminated there – The Legendary)

Sheriff's race hot and heavy on too many offenses

Big shakeup in Falls County liquor locker

Marlin – Former Texas Alcoholic Commission investigator Ricky Scaman had decided to make his move.

He would run for Sheriff of Falls County, but there were a lot of people standing in his way.

By the time Mr. Scaman showed up at a remote Falls County location to take a ride with his boss, investigators had built a Bible of complaints on his job performance, including thumb-indexed chapters and verses on time keeping, investigative techniques, and a racy photo of a smiling embrace with a topless – and very nearly bottomless – stripper. Ah, entertainer. Er - uh – exotic dancer?

An investigator, he was there to listen to reason as Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Executive Director Alan Steen drove him around his rural property near Marlin in an official state vehicle.

The message was clear, according to a lawsuit filed this week in district court on behalf of Mr. Scaman.

Ricky Scaman should not quit his $50,000 a year job as a TABC investigator to run for Sheriff of Falls County, a political position that pays a paltry $31,000 per annum.

According to the lawsuit, though the message was clear, the reasoning behind it was not, at least from the scant information supplied by Mr. Scaman's attorneys.

The three defendants have yet to answer the allegations of complaint.

It is unclear if a shift in plans by current Sheriff Ben Kirk to seek re-election rather than step aside figures in the controversy.

What is clear is that everyone involved was in - or had been - in serious trouble over their job performance in law enforcement or work as a corrections officer.

Former Falls County Sheriff Larry Pamplin had at one point pled no contest to a charge of stealing $23,574 in “fake expenses,” according to Mssrs. Mark Straton and William Torrey, Mr. Scaman's attorneys.

Trent Pamplin lost his peace officers' certification for a 10-year period following his conviction for drunk driving. The Texas Youth Commission fired him from his job as a corrections officer at the local juvenile detention facility when he was caught sleeping on duty.

His former boss at the youth commission, Alan Steen, who became the top man at TABC in 2003, is described in these terms by Mr. Scaman's lawyers:

“During his tenure at TABC, the TABC has been involved in a number of scandals including car chases, alleged rapes of minors, shootings, violent bar raids and at least one sexual harrassment lawsuit.”

According to the laconic recital of the lawsuit, Mr. Steen once told a mechanic who was working on his parents' motor home near Georgetown to “take his service contract and get off the property.” A police officer noted in an official report that Mr. Steen threatened “he would kick the repairman's ass.”

The dispute? The man allegedly wanted to be paid what he was owed, according to the report.

Following a closed executive session of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Mr. Steen resigned his position effective June 1.

Investigators had been scrutinizing Ricky Scaman's job performance for some time, according to a 76-page complaint filed by his supervisors at TABC, a complaint reportedly based on more than 400 pages of reports and statements gathered over his tenure, which began in 2005. (click here to read the report of the TABC Office of Professional Responsibility)

It was not Mr. Scaman's first rodeo with regard to complaints against his professionalism.

In a 2004 civil suit, Bernice M. DeRouen alleged she had been subjected to "willful physical abuse and false imprisonment" following a wild ride in a patrol car driven by a female officer who pursued another vehicle while she rode, handcuffed, in the back seat. She sued the Falls County Sheriff's Department and then Falls County Deputy Ricky Scaman, a legal action the County's attorneys claimed was erroneous since Falls County and its Sheriff's Department are the same enttities. Mr. Scaman arrested Ms. DeRouen for Class C Misdemeanor Assault. (click here to read Falls County's appeal brief)

What did he do as an investigator for TABC?

The duties varied from delivering classroom lectures to underage drinkers on the evils of consuming alcohol to conducting investigations of errant bar owners who do business in ways contrary to state law.

Investigations of disturbance calls in establishments licensed to serve alcoholic beverages tops the list, but there are many operators of shirt tail beer joints that will tell tales of TABC investigators peeping in windows and knocking on doors after hours.

They are just doing their job. They are there to see if they can find an open container of beer or a bottle of whiskey, to rouse a drunk sleeping with his head on the bar or stretched out on a pool table, or go through the trash in search of liquor bottles with labels that have not been defaced to prevent their being refilled with illegally distilled and untaxed products of the bootlegger's art.

A part of the folk lore of any Texas watering hole, neighborhood bar or outright blind pig, this constant war of wits between the men and women behind the plank while catering to the needs of their tipsy clients and the TABC agents who ride herd on their business is the stuff of Legend – all part of growing up, as Willie Nelson might say.

Then there are the underage girls, a bar owner's biggest challenge to keeping a license – that is, after paying the bills and keeping the employees from walking away with most of the owner's money stuffed in their pockets.

Many a bar owner has succumbed to a competitor's dirty trick of furnishing underage females with fake ID on ladies nights, allowing the hapless patsy to pack his bar with good looking chicks, and then calling the TABC investigators to report underage drinking – all in the interest of common decency, the moral development of youth, and the safety of motorists on public roadways.

By the time the agents arrive, the fake ID's are long lost; the girls are sent home to their mommies, and the bar's license is suspended for 28 days - pending an investigation.

The pages of the “Marlin Democrat” are often graced with accounts of Agent Ricky Scaman arresting various persons for Class B Misdemeanor offenses involving their patronage at area drinking establishments. Mr. Scaman is running for Sheriff as a Republican.

Complaints against Mr. Scaman included falsification of a government document by making incorrect entries on his time sheets. For instance, he claimed to have been doing an investigation in neighboring Bell County while he was actually in Falls County, doing something else.

But the crowning event occurred at The Two Minnie's, a local gentlemen's entertainment club, where professional – ah, entertainers – dancers, dance partially nude, displaying ample breasts and performing torrid contortions on stage while gyrating to the music and picking up the tips tossed or stuffed into their g-strings.

Ricky Scaman strolled into the club one evening and a young woman wearing only a thong grabbed him in an embrace while another police officer hugged her from the rear and an employee of the establishent made a snapshot. That's one of the illustrations in the Bible built by investigators investigating Ricky Scaman, investigator.

During their rural ride, Mr. Steen allegedly furnished Mr. Scaman with an “unsigned list of ridiculous and far-fetched allegations” that could be used against him if he did not change his plans to run for Sheriff of Falls County.

After his refusal to change his plans, the lawsuit alleges, a Major Robert Cloud took him aside in a conference room on September 21 and told him “I am not leaving here today unless you resign or are terminated.”

Mr. Scaman is at present apparently unemployed, though he is still pursuing election as the Sheriff of Falls County.

Pictures of him wearing the ubiquitous white cowboy hat of the candidate for Lord High Sheriff festoon the rural landscape of Falls County on ever country road and corner fence post.

On-line campaign literature asserts that he is a recipient of certain awards for his work, a Master Peace Officer certified by the State of Texas, and has “the ability to look at the big picture.”

Mr. Scaman's lawsuit alleges that Mr. Steen, the director of the TABC, involved the state agency in a plot with his co-defendants to deprive him of his First Amendment right to seek public office, a violation of Texas Penal Code Sect. 39.03 – Official Oppression.

A Class A misdemeanor, the offense consists of misconduct by a public official if under color of his official duties, he:

“(1)intentionally subjects another to mistreatment or to arrest, detention, search, seizure, dispossession, assessment,
or lien that he knows is unlawful;
“(2) intentionally denies or impedes another in the exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power, or immunity, knowing his conduct is unlawful; or
“(3) intentionally subjects another to sexual harassment.”

The three defendants thereby conspired to commit “tortious interference” with Mr. Scaman's right to seek office and committed slander and libel by making the allegations of complaint in the official TABC complaint used to terminate his employment.

The suit seeks damages in excess of the jurisdiction of the court and that the jurors render the judgment attached to any forthcoming verdict of culpability following a trial.

The burning question: Will a judge or jury, or both, determine that the three defendants knew their conduct was unlawful?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Grandmother finds no place to take a stand in meth wars

Tells chilling story of murder, misery

Waco – A dog catcher making his morning rounds of the animal control facility in a nearby suburb arrived to feed the strays in the pound.

As he approached, he surprised two men who had come to retrieve a container of anhydrous ammonia used in the manufacture – cooking – of illicit methamphetamine – crank, crystal, speed.

They couldn't be sure if he had seen them – or not – so, they stalked him, shot him in the back, and just to make sure he was dead, flipped him over and shot him the heart. (click here for the back story)

All this was done just because he may have seen something.

The killers have met justice in court. The matter is closed.

Or is it?

A grandmother who is native to the area heard the whole story long before the matter became public knowledge, before a Grand Jury returned indictments, before a jury trial had been scheduled, publicized.

She heard it from a woman she now knows was involved in the matter, though at the time, she was on her own, trying to learn where she could find her daughter, granddaughter and son in a desperate search for a family troubled by the kind of psychological warfare and terrorism that accompanies the use and manufacture of illegal drugs.

Her problem: There was no drug task force, no narcotics unit available in a metropolitan area of 250,000 souls, no central clearing house for the investigation of drug crime to which she could turn to try to keep her family unit intact in the face of what amounts to wartime conditions, a war carried out with both conventional weapons of steel and lead, shot and powder, as well as mysterious compounds that people inject into their bloodstream, compounds that make them do things they would not ordinarily even dream of doing.(click here for a story about the problem)

The only way to tell her story is to let her have her say in her own words – to let her tell it like it is from the perspective of a grandmother desperate to keep her family alive and well and free.

The alternative: incarceration, loss of custody of the children, homelessness, sickness – and ultimately, death.(click here for the minority report-blam-de-lam)

The Nuge to face Secret Service interlocutors - today

April 19 brings scrutiny over Obama remarks

Waco-based rocker Ted Nugent has a sit-down today with Secret Service agents seeking answers to their questions about his intentions regarding certain remarks he made at the NRA convention about President Barack Hussein Obama, the Constitution, liberal members of the Supreme Court - and other matters.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Manufacturers agree to compensate Katrina victims

Admit FEMA trailers held toxic gases

NEW ORLEANS - Twenty mobile home manufacturers have agreed to pay $14.8 million to thousands of U.S. hurricane victims who suffered from formaldehyde fumes in trailers furnished by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Lawyers representing those who lived in trailers after being left homeless by Gulf Coast hurricanes Katrina and Rita filed a preliminary settlement agreement in federal court in New Orleans on Friday, asking U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt to approve it.

The settlement could affect tens of thousands of people who lived in trailers provided by FEMA after Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast in August and September 2005. Chief complaints center around irritation of the eyes, nose and throat that causes a burning sensation, lung congestion, and numerous infections.

The formaldehyde is contained in compounds synthesized for use in adhesives and resins in the interiors of the trailers. It is emitted in hot, humid conditions when little or no ventilation is available in the trailers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Dig this movie about fighting in the war - home grown

Red C's "Wounded Movie"

This Outlaw bidness fixin' to get out of hand - again!

Waylon’s First Birthday Bash-June 16th

Here’s a show that you’ll want to put on the calender for June 16th in Whiteface, Texas.It’s being billed as the first Waylon Jennings Birthday Bash starring Shooter Jennings. Special guests include, Whiskey Myers, Jackson Taylor and the Sinners, William Clark Green, Rowdy Johnson Band, Jimmy Miles, Sergio and the Outta Luck Band, and Tommy Jennings. Plus, there will be a Car show featured, a BBQ cook-off and lots of vendors. Shooter Jennings will be playing songs from his just released album Family Man, featuring the single, “The Deed and the Dollar.” For ticket information and maps to the venue take the link here.

PR bonds in February 4 times the number in November

Waco – Jail census reports show that Personal Recognizance releases from the McLennan County Jail approved by judges in February number 4 times those made in November, just one quarter earlier in fiscal year 2011/2012.

In an ongoing funding crisis, the Sheriff's Department has been paying $45.50 per day to house overflow prisoners from the Highway 6 County Jail in the Jack Harwell Detention Center due to overcrowding.

In March, the entire budget for the year for outside care of prisoners had been depleted, so the Commissioners Court was forced to fund the need from the “Contingencies” account in the yearly budget.

According to County Auditor Stan Chambers, the yearly expense will total more than $1.6 million over the course of the current fiscal year. (please click for larger view)

Non-violent prisoners charged with offenses other than those classified as assaultive in the Texas Penal Code are eligible for release by personal recognizance if a judge approves, and if the inmate completes a release form with all pertinent information regarding residence and place of work.

It is essentially a personal promise to appear in court on the day specified, one which is backed by the surety of an offender's word rather than the forfeiture of a certain amount of money by a suretor.

Neocon politics costing precious votes in swing states

Local GOP activists alarmed Obama will benefit

Waco - Sentiments of radical right Christian and Tea Party enthusiasts are costing votes in swing states; the numbers don't lie.

Long-time Republican moderate activists and office holders are starting to chafe at their prospects in the White House and on Capitol Hill.

“We've been taken over by a bunch of radical right, evangelical Christian nuts – and they're going to drive the deal - we'll wind up re-electing Obama this year as a result.”

Though the speaker declined attribution of his best sidewalk, street level analysis, there are plenty of poll numbers out there to back up what amounts to the kind of count-every-vote-in-every-ballot box savvy it takes to be elected, and re-elected, to local office as a Party of Lincoln stalwart in the land of cotton.

The most glaring signs are the ones on prominent display at the filling stations, where prices hover near the back-breaking 2008 psychological barrier of $4 per gallon, with no end in sight.

“The average price of a gallon has risen by more than fifteen percent since January, and congressional Republicans have repeatedly attacked the President for not doing enough to keep prices down. Between 2010 and 2011, over-all spending on gasoline in the United States rose by twenty-five percent; the percentage of household income that Americans spend on gas has tripled since the late nineteen-nineties,” wrote Steve Coll in this week's edition of “The New Yorker.”

In a take-out business profile about how “the evolution” of Irving-based Exxon-Mobil as “the country's biggest and most powerful oil company into a finance arm of the Republican Party is a story of both energy economics and style,” Mr. Coll ventures the opinion that the world's largest energy purveyor “has developed an algorithmic formula for political spending and lobbying that has reinforced its alignment with Republican candidates in ways that Democrats could hardly see as anything but antagonistic.”

McLennan County Republican Chairman Joe B. Hinton is a former Vice President of Exxon-Mobil, which has posted record quarterly profits on its products for a couple of decades with about 90 percent of its political contributions going to Republican PAC's from a profit center that tops annual revenues of more than 400 billion dollars.

He is challenged by Ralph Patterson, a local business man backed by the grass roots GOPIsForMe faction laboring hard to bring Hispanic voters into the Republican fold. Mr. Hinton has declined to debate Mr. Patterson.

Then there is the blood letting shown in polls of the 12 swing states – the battlegrounds where the electoral votes needed to elect or reject Mr. Obama will be found.

Women, particularly younger women under 50, are in full flight from the kind of in-your-face hostility, that fabled “uncivility” so often heralded by liberal pundits over social cares entirely extraneous to the economic issues that make it so hard for a young home maker to get to work, pay for child care, retire student loans, provide housing and pay the grocery bills.

“At this point in the presidential race between incumbent Barack Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, the focus is on two men arguing about women – how to woo them (politically speaking), who best represents their particular interests, which first lady reflects today’s American woman,” wrote Brad Knickerbocker of “The Christian Science Monitor.”

Sure, young mommies care about the economically extraneous issues of prayer in the schools, abortion, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, drugs, and dealing with burned-out dopers who can't work, but live on food stamps and buy alcohol and drugs with their Lone Star Cards. They care a lot about all that. Who doesn't?

Their cares don't help them fill their gas tanks or pay their bills at the pediatricians' offices.

People who worked hard to get out the vote and register boll weevils who had traditionally voted Democratic when Texas had only one party and one party only are standing around on one foot, then the other while the newly conservative neocons squander those hard-earned votes in ideological tilts with the kind of social windmills the broadest base of voters – working men and women - never signed up to fight.

In one month's time, approval for Mr. Obama surged by double digits in 12 swing states, according to a Gallup Poll. He leads by 51 percent to Gov. Mitt Romney's 42 percent, when in February, he trailed 46 to 48 percent with a plus or minus margin for error of 4 percent.

While fewer than half of women under 50 supported Mr. Obama in February, more than 60 percent now prefer the President's re-election over that of Mitt Romney, who nets 30 percent, down 14 points from last month, according to ABC News.

It all depends on who is interpreting the numbers. For instance, Stuart Rothenburg, editor of "TheRothenburg Political Report," in an article published in “Roll Call,” has a different take on what is going on in those 12 states.

Nationwide, figures show Obama's support actually dropped by 4 points from 59 percent to 55 percent among women under 50 over the same period.

Why would national TV coverage produce big swings only in the swing states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin?

If the "Republican war on women" is driving the change in women's polls, why did Romney's support among men nationally drop dramatically as well? Rothenberg notes: "Among men, Romney's 16-point advantage in October shrunk to just 3 points in March?" asks Maggie Gallagher in “Real Clear Politics.”

"I can't explain the different results, and I'm not trying to," Rothenburg concludes.

Ms. Gallagher's conclusion is simple enough, and it matches the smart money among seasoned Republican veterans of the fray who operate locally:

“Meanwhile, the Obama campaign has spent $19 million on media this election cycle (including $3.7 million on broadcast media), and the DNC has tossed in another $10.6 million (including $8 million for broadcast media) in this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics', “ Ms. Gallagher wrote.

“According to published reports, they are concentrating their ad buys in swing states.

“The RNC has spent just $1.6 million on media so far. Romney has spent $20 million over this election cycle -- and his super PAC more -- but not on ads attacking Obama.

“What voters were hearing about Romney on the airwaves in March was all virtually negative. Obama was getting off scot-free because Romney's money was being spent attacking Republicans.”

Monday, April 16, 2012

New talent at Al's Tokio Store Musicians' Reunion

Outlaw country looking good, feeling better

Tokio – In the bottoms of the Aquilla Creek, not far from the old ford smack dab on the way to Montana, they come and go, camp awhile and move up and down, in and out.

There is an old Navy hootch there named Al's Tokio Store, a place that has sold cold beer since some indeterminate time in the 19th Century, at the corner of Old Railroad Road and Tokio Loop, otherwise known as the Jim Lewis Expressway.

You might say it's a part of national security, inextricably linked with the affairs of state - all hail!

Loretta and a running buddy of hers made the scene, selling brewski, posing for pictures, sitting on – ah – motorcycles and looking pretty. Oh, well, the grizzled veterans, outlaws and other assorted folks in black t-shirts are easily entertained; it's a well-known fact to one and all, but there is something special about – oh, well, never mind.

You might say painted ladies are the shine on the apple, the sizzle on the steak - all part of the show. Here's to the girls who keep it rolling, y'all.

As some young Polish lads once sang, “Her eyes, they shine like the diamonds...and her hair hung over her shoulder, tied up with a black velvet band,” etc.

The tunes were cooking, the brew was flowing, and the burgers were sizzling. Casey Kelley on acoustic - Dave Giddens on electric - ripping it up and laying it down and dirty. Yes. Exactly.

Come on down, y'all. Every other Sunday, 3 or 4 p.m. - The Legendary