Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Sides With Hobby Lobby In Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate Case

The five conservative justices of the Supreme Court ruled today that the contraceptive mandate included as a part of the Affordable Care Act for employer-sponsored health insurance plans cannot be enforced against private, closely-held corporations like Hobby Lobby. The majority opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby authored by Justice Samuel Alito held that the contraceptive mandate, as applied to closely-held corporations like Hobby Lobby, violated the owners of the company's religious beliefs against abortions under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("RFRA"). Regulations adopted by the Health & Human Services agency for the ACA would have subjected companies like Hobby Lobby to a penalty of $2,000 per employee if their employer-sponsored health care plans did not include the mandated contraceptive coverage that HHS determined was required to fulfill the ACA's mandate of providing preventive care and screening for women under any group employee health insurance plan.

The majority's opinion found that the government has other means of achieving its contraceptive coverage without imposing a substantial burden on the business owner's exercise of their religious freedom. The majority emphasized that its opinion was narrowly applied to only touch on the contraceptive mandate of the ACA regulations and would not touch things like vaccinations and blood transfusions. The majority also emphasized that its holding should not be interpreted as a shield for employers who might utilize religious freedom to cloak illegal discrimination. Because its decision rested on its interpretation of RFRA, the Court did not reach the First Amendment claims in the case. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sharply criticized the majority for allowing a private corporation to opt out of any law "they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious briefs" in "a decision of startling breadth."

UPDATE: Contrary to the leftist meme, Congress never passed a law mandating coverage in health care plans for contraceptives. The ACA mandate was a product of rule-making by the Obama-run Human and Health Services agency in implementing the ACA. As we've seen time and time again, the written law means absolutely nothing when it comes to President Obama. This President believes he's a king who can act by executive fiat whenever he so chooses without any legislative authorization from Congress. This debate should never have been based on religious grounds; rather, it should have been based on what was medically necessary to provide "preventive care" services for women within the meaning of the ACA. Taking a prescribed medication to terminate a pregnancy for convenience after having unprotected sex, in my view, doesn't not fall within the meaning of "preventive care."

Gary Airport's P3 Operator Gets Credit For Alternative Fuel Plant

The Gary Airport Authority recently entered into a 40-year privatization agreement with a Virginia-based company, Aviation Facilities Co., Inc. ("AFCO") to manage the city's airport. Under the terms of that agreement, it was required to cause at least $10 million in development investments at the airport by mid-2015 and another $15 million within the following four and a half years. The Northwest Indiana Times reports that AFCO has already met its initial $10 million investment requirement. Carmeuse, a Belgian mining company, will develop an alternative fuels plant across the street from the airport that will cost exactly $10 million. Although it has absolutely nothing to do with aviation, AFCO will receive credit for the alternative fuels plant, which will supply Carmeuse's nearby lime-processing facility at Buffington Harbor.

Keith Benman's report in the Northwest Indiana Times asks what an alternative fuels plant has to do with aviation. State Rep. Ed Soliday, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, tells Benman there doesn't seem to be an overall vision for the airport or the land surrounding it. An official with Gary Mayor Karen Freeman's office tells Benman that people need to "expand their thinking" and "take a long view" when it comes to developing the airport. An aide to Freeman says that AFCO's role as operator of the airport was critical to Carmeuse's decision to develop the 130 acres with an alternative fuels plant, suggesting there were conversations between the two even before the authority entered into its P3 agreement with AFCO.

The co-founders of AFCO, Gerald Halpin and Francis Chambers, are both military veterans. Halpin became a very successful businessmen serving the military/industrial complex at Atlantic Research Corporation after his service in the Navy during World War II. Halpin co-founded West Group Management, a hotel and high-end resort developer. Tyson's Corner is one of his most well-known developments. Chambers joined Halpin's West Group following many years in the U.S. Marines where he held high-level fiscal and logistics positions within the military. At Halpin's West Group, he played key roles in the development of cargo facilities at Washington's Dulles Airport and Philadelphia International Airport. It's not hard to figure out how Carmeuse and AFCO crossed paths in the past.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ballard Administration Scales Back Sports Park In Face-Saving Move

Rather than admit that construction costs for the World Sports Park on the east side was going to cost nearly double the projected $5.9 million cost, the Ballard administration quietly chose to drastically cut back its scope in a face-saving move. The IBJ ran to the administration for answers after this blog reported that costs of the much-criticized project were running much higher than originally projected. It learned of changes the administration made to avoid a $10 million price tag.
“When we got some of the prices, some of the bidding, some of the things that we were looking at trying to install, it was more expensive than we anticipated,” city engineer Andy Lutz told the Board of Public Works in June. “I’ll be the first to admit that.” When the park is finished, it will have three elite multi-use fields, instead of four, and no concession pavilion or additional parking spaces. The anticipated price tag is $5.1 million, to be paid by the Rebuild Indy fund created from the 2010 sale of the city water utility. Building the park to the original plan would have cost as much as $10 million. 
The World Sports Park has been fertile ground for partisan rhetoric since April 2013, when Republican Mayor Greg Ballard revealed during a trip to India that the city would host a U.S. cricket championship game. Until then, most City-County Council members, including many Republicans, were unaware of plans for the World Sports Park. At the time, the council was reviewing the city’s $1 billion budget for further cuts and facing a gap for this year upwards of $40 million. 
City officials said the park could be a revenue-generator, as a national cricket tournament was slated for a three-year run starting in August. Then in May, because of organizational dysfunction at the USA Cricket Association, the city canceled plans for the tournament. The Department of Public Works and Indy Parks are no longer talking about sponsorships or other revenue-generating agreements for the park. 
The World Sports Park was not included in a request for proposals last fall that aimed to find private operators for city parks, parks spokeswoman Maureen Faul said. That RFP process is not final, she said. She would not say whether the parks department is still seeking a private operator for the park. Lutz told the public works board that maintenance would be rolled into the same budget that covers 207 other city parks . . . 
Despite how obvious for all to see what a debacle this project has proven to be, DPW Director Lori Miser defends it as "a very well though-out use for this park."  One of the things the administration hasn't figured out yet is how much maintenance costs on the park are going to cost. Those costs will be absorbed by the parks budget, which means cuts will need to be made elsewhere to make up for the astronomically high costs that will be incurred for a park built as a favor to a handful of campaign contributors of the mayor. The IBJ learns from others knowledgeable in the maintenance and care of cricket fields that "irrigation needs will be high and maintenance is a daily job." DPW says it has trained its maintenance crews in the upkeep of cricket pitches, which are built from "6 inches of clay soil with grass cut to 3 millimeters" to create the effect of a "very fast golf green." It should be fun watching these trained maintenance people trying to maintain cricket pitches.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Political Wickedness Has Deadly Consequences In Mississippi Senate Race

Mark Mayfield
The Senate Republican runoff primary race between six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran and Tea Party-supported candidate Chris McDaniel was by all accounts as dirty as campaigns in this country can get. Republican operative Karl Rove's involvement on behalf of the incumbent pretty much ensured that outcome. It's not often, though, that dirty politicking results in criminal charges and suicide, both of which occurred in this pathetic campaign, which ended on Tuesday with Cochran eking out a narrow victory of a few thousand votes in a run-off election after McDaniel had finished ahead of the incumbent in the initial primary election by a little more than a thousand votes. Cochran was criticized by conservative Republicans in the state for urging Democrats to cross over and vote in the Republican primary race. One pro-Cochran group put out a racist flier that purported to be produced by the Tea Party to inflame the state's African-American voters against McDaniel in hopes they would come out and vote for Cochran in the closely-fought race. McDaniel has refused to concede the race, arguing that persons who voted earlier in the Democratic primary had illegally cast votes in the run-off primary election race to secure a win for Cochran.

The most bizarre incident during the campaign, however, occurred when a young political blogger who supported McDaniel's campaign entered a nursing home where Cochran's wife, Rose, has been confined for more than a decade, suffering from advanced Alzheimer's Disease, and recorded images of her asleep in her bed on Easter Sunday. The blogger, Clayton Kelly, used the images in a negative YouTube clip he uploaded to the Internet but quickly took down after it was denounced by the Cochran and McDaniel campaigns alike. The purpose of obtaining the images was to advance allegations that Cochran was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a female staffer who frequently accompanied him on trips. Cochran denies having an inappropriate relationship with the staffer, although he supposedly lives in the basement of her Washington, D.C. home.

Naturally, the Cochran campaign exploited the unseemly actions of Kelly to tarnish McDaniel, who denied any involvement with Kelly's actions. The Madison County district attorney, Michael Guest, a supporter of Cochran's re-election campaign, in a highly unusual move charged Kelly with a felony charge for photographing Cochran's wife without her consent where there is an expectation of privacy, a criminal voyeurism statute intended to be used against persons accused of photographing or filming a person in a state of undress for the person's sexual gratification. Guest surprised many observers when he added more charges against Kelly and charged three more men associated with the Tea Party, including a prominent and well-respected real estate attorney in Jackson, Mississippi, Mark Mayfield, of conspiring with Kelly. In bringing the charges, the district attorney said there was no evidence the McDaniel campaign had any involvement with the photographing of Cochran's wife. He never elaborated on the role the other men charged played in aiding Kelly with the alleged crime. Kelly's attorney claimed he had never met any of the other men prior to their arrest and was surprised to learn they were charged in connection with his case.

Mayfield was charged with conspiracy, along with a radio talk show host, John Mary. A third man, Richard Sager, a physical education teacher and coach, was charged with evidence tampering and conspiracy. Questions about the overcharging and the manner in which the case was being prosecuted quickly arose. Friends of Mayfield claimed that a SWAT team of six police officers descended on Mayfield's law office to make his arrest. Mayfield's attorney described the arrest as something you would see in China or Russia. Unlike Mayfield, Kelly had been allowed to turn himself into police voluntarily to face charges, while the other two men had been arrested by police in a discrete manner. Attorneys for the men all complained about bail being set unusually high for all four men. Sager's bond was initially set at $500,000, while bail for Mayfield, Mary and Kelly was set at $250,000. Kelly's bail was later reduced to $75,000, and Sager's bail was reduced to $50,000 after their attorneys appealed to the judge to set the amount in line with the charges brought against the defendants. Mary was released from jail due to health problems. Mayfield had already been bailed out on a $250,000 bond.

According to friends, the fallout from the criminal charges came fast and hard for Mayfield. "The day after his arrest, he started losing law clients, including three banks that were large clients, those close to him have shared" the Clarion-Ledger reported. Friends told the newspaper that the ordeal had "destroyed him" and left him "clearly scared and anguished." Yesterday morning, he took a revolver with him into a storage room of his garage and shot himself. His wife found him dead, along with a suicide note he left nearby. Police have refused to disclose the contents of the note. The Clarion-Ledger spoke to Pat Bruce, a friend and fellow Tea Party associate about Mayfield's shocking death. "He was a small man in stature, physically, but he was the biggest man I knew inwardly," Bruce said. He was kind and smart and passionate about what he believed in. He was the finest man I know." "They killed him . . . They sent a SWAT team to his office, six officers, just to arrest him." The newspaper disputes the account that a SWAT team was utilized, but it acknowledges that multiple police officers in several police cars with lights on showed up at his law office compared to the low-profile manner in which the other arrests in the case were made. "Politics has gone too far, Bruce said. "I'm just outraged."

Before Mayfield took his life, his attorney, Merrida Coxwell, protested his innocence. "Not only did Mr. Mayfield not agree to take the photographs, but he also did not conspire to take them." Coxwell challenged the sufficiency of the underlying charge against Kelly, let alone the conspiracy charge against his client. "They have to show Clayton Kelly's actions were lewd, licentious or indecent--not journalistic," Coxwell told the Clarion-Ledger in reference to the state voyeurism statute. "A journalist, even a small journalist--and the Supreme Court has ruled bloggers are journalists--have the same protections of any other journalists." "This may be protected speech in a political arena," Coxwell continued, admitting that doing so was "stupid." "Regardless, they not going to find any proof of Mr. Mayfield's involvement." Unfortunately, Mayfield's guilt or innocence has been rendered moot by his unfortunate death. Coxwell seems to have a very valid point on the validity of the underlying charge against Kelly. Mississippi's voyeurism statute reads:
Any person who with lewd, licentious or indecent intent secretly photographs, films, videotapes, records or otherwise reproduces the image of another person without the permission of such person when such a person is located in a place where a person would intend to be in a state of undress and have a reasonable expectation of privacy, including, but not limited to, private dwellings or any facility, public or private, used as a restroom, bathroom, shower room, tanning booth, locker room, fitting room, dressing room or bedroom shall be guilty of a felony and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of Five Thousand Dollars ($ 5,000.00) or by imprisonment of not more than five (5) years in the custody of the Department of Corrections, or both.
The words "lewd, licentious or indecent" all connote that Kelly's intent in photographing Cochran's wife was sexual in nature of which there is no evidence. There is also no evidence that the victim was in a state of undress. According to news reports, the images Kelly posted on his blog showed her asleep in her bed clothed in sleep wear. I think the prosecutor would have been hard pressed to prove the elements of Mississippi's video voyeurism statute regardless of how poor in taste it was for Kelly to take the images. It is not at all uncommon that we witness tabloid photojournalists photographing and videotaping various celebrities in various states of declining health under questionable circumstances. Although Sen. Cochran is clearly a public person, it would be harder to argue that his mentally infirm wife who is permanently confined to her nursing home bed is a public figure. It seems that a civil remedy for invasion of privacy claim by Sen. Cochran, however, would have been a more appropriate remedy to have pursued against Kelly for photographing Cochran without her consent rather than criminal charges. What are your thoughts?

Ballard Administration Admits Key Documents Related To ROC Were Destroyed, Discrediting State Police Investigation

There has been outrage nationally over the discovery that the computer of a key IRS official at the center of the congressional investigation concerning the political targeting of the Tea Party had crashed in 2011 and that because computer backups had been recycled her e-mails could not be produced to comply with a congressional subpoena. Suspicions concerning the supposed computer crash were heightened after it was learned that it occurred only days after congressional investigators began asking questions about IRS scrutiny of donations to certain nonprofit groups. So where's similar outrage over the admission by the Ballard administration that computer hard drives of city project and contract managers had been "wiped clean" making it impossible for them to produce key documents related to the Regional Operations Committee?

Instead of reporting on what is arguably a crime, most of the local news media this week instead touted a conveniently-timed tour of the Regional Operations Center conducted by Public Safety Director Troy Riggs to show off the fact that the troubled landlord had finally corrected problems with the leased building that made it unsafe for occupancy more than two years after it was required to deliver the premises for occupancy under terms of an unconventional, one-sided lease that favored the politically-connected owner, Alex Carroll. At least Fox 59 News' Russ McQuaid took note of what was transpiring in the courtroom where a special council committee investigating the ROC lease was seeking a court order compelling the Ballard administration to produce key documents related to the lease that is has sought for months:
In response to a subpoena by a City-County Council committee, attorneys representing Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard have told a Marion Circuit Court judge that they can’t find key paperwork related to the city’s selection and lease of the Regional Operations Center at the former Eastgate Consumer Mall. 
The council’s ROC Investigating Committee sought 30 sets of documents that were expected to detail the decision of the Ballard administration in 2011 to sign a 25-year, $18 million lease for an emergency operations center and police headquarters on North Shadeland Avenue . . . 
Among documents crucial to the ROC investigation that the lawyers claim they cannot find are hard drives belonging to city project and contract managers and consultants that have been “wiped” clean of information.  
The city also doesn’t have any contracts with an engineering firm hired to work on the project, Drafts of the Development Agreement and audit reports related to expenditures at the center. Most glaring is the city’s inability to answer the demand for the  “contract with the NFL that required the city to have an emergency operations center in time for the 2012 Super Bowl.”
“Defendant has no documents responsive to this Request,” answered the Corporation Counsel. Former Public Safety Director Frank Straub and Mayor Ballard repeatedly claimed that such a center was a contracted stipulation for Indianapolis’ successful bid to host Super Bowl XLVI. 
“The answer is, they should have it,” said Simpson. “I think there is some information about the NFL that we asked for and that we want. “Or they still exist. They just don’t want to give them to us.”
Public Safety Director Troy Riggs admits that his predecessor, Frank Straub, left behind no documents that his office had maintained concerning the ROC lease. Adding further to the problem was Riggs' acknowledgment to McQuaid that the City's Code Enforcement inspectors had uncovered multiple violations during construction taking place within the leased space in 2011 but had been ordered by city legal to stop conducting inspections due to questions the corporation counsel's office had concerning the lease. The Ballard administration has refused to produce "all notices of Code Violations and Stop Work Orders" and e-mail communications of Code Enforcement employees concerning the construction work taking place at the ROC to the ROC Investigating Committee, claiming the request is "overly burdensome." A fire investigator told McQuaid that he never investigated the leased premises for a fire suppression system until October 2012, more than 9 months after city employees had first moved into the building. "Inspector Fred Pervine said he was busy with other projects and therefore unaware of the lack of a fire sprinkler system in the center," McQuaid reported.

The Ballard administration waited until a deadline set by Marion Co. Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg  to produce documents unsuccessfully sought by the council, including Straub's e-mails. Advance Indiana exclusively reported on the contents of some of those e-mails earlier this week in which then-City Controller Jeff Spalding admitted to serious funding problems facing IMPD that resulting in Straub making last-minute changes in the ROC lease to reduce its costs as the administration scrambled to win council approval of the ROC lease.

Interestingly, one of the e-mails produced in this latest request was sent to a Republican member of the investigating committee, Jack Sandlin, concerning lost recordings of Public Safety Board meetings by WCTY. This occurred after it was discovered that WCTY's archived recordings of past meetings of the Public Safety Board were missing key meetings during Straub's tenure at which the ROC lease was discussed. Channel 16's Manager wrote in an e-mail to Sandlin dated January 16 of this year that WCTY had covered meetings of the Public Safety Board in 2010 but were later ordered by Straub to stop recording them. "After our conversation I did some research that helped jog my memory," Montgomery wrote. "Channel 16 covered two meeting of the PSB in 2010, on April 14th and May 20th." "We were then directed to discontinue coverage as per Director Straub," Montgomery continued. "We resumed coverage on February 9th, 2012, with Director Straub still presiding." Montgomery told Sandlin that he had e-mails from that period and indicated that he did not get any push back from Straub over the renewed coverage of the PSB meetings. Montgomery offers no explanation as to what authority Straub had to order him to stop covering meetings that it was required to cover in contravention of its own policies.

These latest disclosures completely discredit the supposed investigation conducted by the Indiana State Police which concluded that no criminal wrongdoing had occurred in connection with the ROC lease. Based on that investigation, Marion Co. Prosecutor Terry Curry announced that his office would not be conducting any prosecutions. "It was not our role to determine if it was a one-sided lease or the terms were inappropriate," Curry told Fox 59 News . . . Curry said detectives told him they examined enough evidence and interviewed enough witnesses to determine there was no crime in the agreement." I'm not a prosecutor, but I know enough about the law, Mr. Curry, to know that the destruction of these key public documents related to the ROC lease constitutes official misconduct and possibly obstruction of justice, both felony crimes. If the media in this town does its job, it will demand that Curry convene a grand jury immediately to determine who was responsible for the destruction of those documents. Both Straub and his counsel, Jonathan Mayes, along with other key administration officials, should be compelled to appear before the grand jury to explain what they knew about the destruction of those documents and when they knew it. If Curry fails to act in response to these latest disclosures, then he has proven that he is as unfit to serve as the county's prosecutor as his corrupt predecessor, Carl Brizzi.

Friday, June 27, 2014

7th Circuit Grants Stay Of Judge Young's Ruling, Halting Issuance Of Same-Sex Marriage Licenses In Indiana

Attorney General Greg Zoeller filed a motion with the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals late this afternoon to obtain a stay of Judge Richard Young's order handed down on Wednesday, which struck down Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional and ordered affected Indiana clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couple applicants. An order signed by Judges Richard Posner, David Hamilton and Ann Claire Williams granted Zoeller's request for a stay pending an appeal. Zoeller sought a stay from the appellate court after Judge Young failed to timely respond to the emergency stay request he filed on Wednesday only hours after Judge Young issued his order. The stay effectively halts county clerks in Indiana from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the state's appeal of Judge Young's ruling is decided. WTHR has posted a copy of the stay here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What Part Of Constitutional Law Does Eric Miller Not Understand?

I understand that Advance America's Eric Miller has been issued a license to practice law in Indiana, but I'm struggling with that thought after reading what he's telling reporters after Judge Richard Young ruled yesterday that Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses found in the U.S. Constitution. Miller is blaming the state legislature for its failure to enact a state constitutional amendment as the reason for Judge Young's ruling:
"Republicans and Democrats are both responsible for the legalization of homosexual marriages," Republican political activist Eric Miller declared, standing outside the Indiana State Capital. 
Miller blames lawmakers for not taking action on the proposed constitutional amendment in 2013. Now he will be asking lawmakers to reintroduce a constitutional amendment in 2015 allowing voters to ultimately decide the issue in 2016. 
"We must pass a constitutional amendment because we believe the Supreme Court will rule the same as it did last year that states can decide marriage the way they want to," Miller added.
Excuse me, Mr. Miller, but it would have made absolutely no difference whether Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act was written in our state's constitution as opposed to the Indiana Code. Whether the law in question was approved by voters as opposed to elected representatives would have made no difference in Judge Young's analysis. The Supreme Court's decision in U.S. v. Windsor cannot be read to say that states were still free to discriminate in its recognition of marriages based on sexual orientation as Miller asserts. Indeed, Justice Scalia's dissenting opinion predicted the exact result Judge Young reached just like dozens of other federal judges faced with the same question have already decided. As a lawyer, what part of federal preemption does Mr. Miller not understand? The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution means that states cannot enact laws that conflict with federal law, particularly laws that seek to interfere with individual rights found to be guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and applied to the states by incorporation through the Fourteenth Amendment. If you don't agree with Judge Young's ruling, your problem is with the U.S. Constitution and how that document has been interpreted by our Supreme Court, not state lawmakers.

UPDATE: One of the few holdouts among the state's county clerks in refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following Wednesday's ruling by Judge Richard Young is Daviess County Clerk Sherri Healey, who tells reporters that "the U.S. was founded on the biblical principle of one man and one woman in marriage" and that's what she will follow until she is ordered to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Indianapolis gay activist Kevin Fyffe, who hails from Washington, Indiana originally, tells his Facebook friends that Healey is his sister. "Yes ladies and gentlemen-this is my sister," Fyffe writes. "You can't make this s_ _ _ up."
Many Indiana county clerks we spoke to this week gave different explanations for not yet issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The forms weren't ready; they needed higher approval, etc.

But this Indiana clerk has been up-front about her religious beliefs and how they're keeping her from issuing licenses to gay couples. Hear from her firsthand:

Supreme Court Splits The Loaf On Presidential Recess Appointments

The first headlines make it seem like the Supreme Court dealt a big blow to overreaching of executive authority by President Barack Obama in its ruling today in NLRB v. Noel Canning striking down three recess appointments he made to the National Labor Relations Board. As is often the case with court decisions, the devil is in the detail. Yes, the Supreme Court unanimously agreed that President Obama went too far when he used the Recess Appointments Clause in the Constitution to appoint three members to the NLRB during a 3-day break in the Senate's pro forma sessions during the Christmas holiday break. Members of the Court, however, divided sharply on what constitutes a "recess" within the meaning of the Constitution, with Justice Kennedy joining the four liberal members of the Court in defining the term very broadly. As Justice Scalia's scathing concurring opinion concludes, the definition provided by the majority in Justice Breyer's opinion is nothing more than judge-made law replacing the original intent behind the Recess Appointments Clause. In short, the Court left a lot of wiggle room for the president to skirt the Senate confirmation process.

When Congress first began meeting after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, a "recess" meant the long break between two separate formal sessions conducted during a two-year time period when Congress still acted as a part-time legislative body. That's the definition Justice Scalia urged, the same one followed by our first two presidents, George Washington and John Adams, for making recess appoints without Senate confirmation. Instead, the majority adopted a more expansive definition that successive presidents over time have further broadened to expand their own power, that includes both inter-session (breaks between formal sessions) and intra-session (breaks in the midst of formal session) recesses. The majority takes the view that the broader definition is required by necessity to ensure the continued functioning of the government while the Senate is not in session. But that definition covers recesses as short as three days. So the majority has crafted a judge-made rule that says that a recess as short as three days but not longer than ten days is presumptively too short to qualify as a "recess" within the meaning of the Constitution. The word "presumptively", of course, leaves the door open for the president to argue that extenuating circumstances required an appointment be made during that shorter time period.

To ameliorate the impact of its broad interpretation, the majority said that it will accept the Senate's definition of when it has the capacity to transact business. So the practice of the Senate adjourning but allowing pro forma business to be transacted during such periods of adjournment without the members actually being present can serve to narrow the number of "recess" periods the president can utilize to make appointments without Senate confirmation. Because in this case President Obama made his three appointments to the NLRB during a 3-day recess during which the Senate was in session for pro forma sessions, his appointments made without the Senate's consent violated the Constitution.

Justice Scalia's minority opinion emphasized the importance of reading the Recess Appointments Clause so as not to nullify the Senate's role in the Senate confirmation process as has occurred repeatedly over a long period of time during our country's history and undermine the important separation of powers doctrine incorporated into our constitution. Scalia narrowly interprets the Clause to mean that: (1) it only applies during a recess between two formal sessions of the Senate (i.e., inter-session); and (2) it may only be exercised to fill vacancies that arise during the recess.

Scalia castigated the majority for reaching an "atextual result" that allows the president to make appointments without Senate confirmation during short breaks in the middle of a formal session based on what he describes as an "adverse possession theory of executive power." "To reach that result, the majority casts aside the plain, original meaning of the constitutional text in deference to late-arising historical practices that are ambiguous at best," Scalia wrote. "The majority’s insistence on deferring to the Executive’s untenably broad interpretation of the power is in clear conflict with our precedent and forebodes a diminution of this Court’s role in controversies involving the separation of powers and the structure of government." Scalia predicts that the failure of the Court to "affirm the primacy of the Constitution's enduring principles" will allow an overreach of executive power "in diverse contexts, including those presently unimagined, and will have the effect of aggrandizing the Presidency beyond its constitutional bounds and undermining respect for the separation of powers."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pence Keeps The Doors Revolving At FSSA

Surprise! He's back. I can't say that I'm surprised since I never thought Gov. Mike Pence cared much about ethics, but it's rather galling for him to name former FSSA Secretary Michael Gargano in a new deputy secretary role where he will be in charge of operations and the Healthy Indiana Plan. Just last month I wrote about Gargano going to work for an FSSA contractor awarded contracts during his previous tenure in top FSSA roles shortly after he departed the agency in January, 2013, apparently unaffected by the state's revolving door law. Prior to his last stint at FSSA, Gargano owned a consulting firm that not only provided consulting work for the agency but also provided consulting work for ACS, the controversial company awarded a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars to manage welfare services for the agency. Pence named Carmel psychiatrist John Wernert as Secretary, replacing Gargano's successor, Debra Minott, who Pence fired last week after a little more than a year on the job. Pence isn't fooling anyone with Wernert's appointment. Everyone knows that Gargano will be the de facto head of the agency. Barnes & Thornburg's Bob Grand, ACS's attorney, wouldn't have it any other way, and we know that Gov. Pence does whatever he's ordered to do by Grand. Government in Indiana sure works to enrich Gargano and his wife, Ann Lathrop, who works for another state contractor, Crowe Horwath, and also once worked at ACS.

Developer Wants Broad Ripple Business And Resident To Pay It $1 Million For Delaying Its Ability To Collect $5.7 Million Subsidy From Taxpayers

These greedy developers in Indianapolis have absolutely no shame. An attorney for Browning Investments is asking Marion Co. Superior Court Judge Michael Keele to assess Good Earth Natural Foods and Broad Ripple resident Patrick Skowroneck $1 million in damages the developer claims it has sustained because of appeals lawfully taken by the business and resident from a Metropolitan Development Commission zoning variance granted to allow the developer to build a mixed-use project along the canal that Indianapolis taxpayers are being forced to subsidize through a grant to the developer of at least $5.7 million. At least another $2 million in taxpayer dollars are being used to redevelop the Central Canal frontage to further enhance the proposed development, even if the City tells us that it can't afford to hire police or fix our streets unless we agree to pay higher taxes. The IBJ has more on this outrageous move by the developer intended to send a chilling message to any citizen who would dare stand in the way of these greedy developers, who seem to think that government exists solely for their benefit and our taxpayer dollars belong to them:
. . . On Wednesday, representatives of Browning Investments and opponents of the project appeared again before Keele, who admitted that Browning’s request for damages is “unique and different.” 
But David Herzog of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, representing Browning Investments, said the Broad Ripple project has been “stopped dead in its tracks” pending the appeal. Because there’s a chance the variances could be overturned, banks are unwilling to lend for the project and the city of Indianapolis is refusing to issue a bond, Herzog argued.
“We’re out roughly a million bucks,” Herzog said. “Is that fair? No it’s not.”
The $1 million Browning Investments wants Good Earth and Skowronek to pay is an estimate of how much project costs could rise due to delays in construction, which might not start for another year depending upon how long the appeal process takes.
Browning Investments is seeking $5.7 million of a $7.7 million city bond used to help finance the project along the Central Canal. The bonds would be paid off over time from property-tax proceeds in the North Midtown tax-increment financing district. The district, created in January 2013, includes the Browning project, which would be called Canal Pointe . . .
I suppose it's not enough that the developer is getting a multi-million dollar subsidy to make room for a Whole Foods grocery store to compete against Good Earth Natural Foods. It wants to make sure the business is bankrupted before it ever opens its doors. I've been asked numerous times how it is constitutional in this country for government to take money from the people and, in turn, pick winners in business that receive large grants from the government to the detriment of their competitors. I don't believe it's compatible with the original intent of either the U.S. or Indiana Constitution, but good luck in getting a judge in this country nowadays to side with you on that issue. The framers of both documents wouldn't recognize the form of government we have at all levels if they were alive today. We have ceased to be a republic. We're just an old-fashioned oligarch that's not any better than your garden variety banana republic you find elsewhere in this world.

Ruling Throws Out Ban On Same-Sex Marriages In Indiana, Gay Couples Free To Marry Immediately

A ruling by a federal district court in Indianapolis today paves the way for allowing any same-sex couple who so desires to obtain a marriage license from the circuit court clerk office in any county within the state of Indiana. The decision handed down by Judge Richard Young has determined that Indiana's Defense of Marriage Act limiting marriage to one man and one woman is unconstitutional. Marion Co. Clerk Beth White has announced that her office will begin accepting marriage license applications from same-sex married couples as of today. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller plans to appeal today's ruling.

UPDATE: According to various news reports, clerks in Allen, Hamilton, Lake, Monroe, St. Joseph and Vanderburgh counties are also accepting marriage license applications from same-sex couples today.

WARNING: If you and your same-sex partner have already obtained a marriage license in another state or country that legally recognized your marriage, you should NOT be rushing to the courthouse in Indiana to obtain a marriage license here because of today's ruling. Your marriage is recognized in Indiana by operation of today's ruling under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution the same as any same-sex couples who subsequently obtain a marriage license issued by this state. It has come to my attention that many gay couples who were already legally married in other states are rushing to the City-County Building and are being issued new marriage licenses. No married couples should obtain a subsequent marriage license unless your previous marriage was legally terminated by a court order. Moreover, the Clerk's Office should NOT be issuing marriage licenses to people who are already legally married. There's nothing wrong with re-commitment ceremonies to mark the occasion, but a license should not be obtained for an already lawfully-recognized marriage. By placing another marriage in the public records to the same spouse, you are creating an appearance, if not a presumption, that your earlier marriage was terminated. Furthermore, the marriage license application form requires you to state any prior marriages and the date any such marriages were terminated.

The Attorney General has advised the county clerks directly impacted by today's ruling (i.e., Hamilton, Allen Boone, Porter and Lake) because the plaintiffs in the case were seeking marriage licenses in their counties that they should comply with the order and commence issuing marriage licenses to avoid a contempt citation. He's leaving it up to the other counties to decide how to proceed since they are not under the court's direct jurisdiction regarding today's order but cautions them to show respect for the judge and the orders he issues.

Indiana Equality has published the following map showing how county clerks were responding to today's ruling as of the close of business today.

Supreme Court Says Police Can't Go Snooping Through Your Cell Phone Following An Arrest Without A Warrant

The Supreme Court handed down a unanimous ruling today that strikes a blow for Fourth Amendment advocates in the digital era. The decision today in Riley v. California written by Chief Justice John Roberts declined to extend the permissible searches made incidental to a custodial arrest to the digital data found on an arrestee's cell phone.  Data stored on the phone the Court concluded cannot be used as a weapon to harm an arresting officer.

This decision actually involved two separate cases. In one case, the police charged a defendant on weapons charges after making a routine traffic arrest. After searching the data on his cell phone, the police found information it later used to charge him in connection with a gang-related shooting. In the second case, police made an arrest of an individual after witnessing him make a drug sale. A search of his cell phone turned up information about calls received from a particular address, which information they used to obtain a search warrant of the property associated with the person who made the calls where they found a large stash of drugs. The defendants in both cases were convicted at trial based on evidence obtained by police without a warrant from their cell phones.

The government claimed the risk of remote wiping of data from the cell phone following the arrest justified a warrantless search, but the Court noted that law enforcement has available technology for preventing the destruction of evidence in this manner. The Court reasoned that substantial privacy interests outweighed any necessity the police might have in searching the data on a phone as a general practice. The Court observed that data on the phone involves many distinct types of information, the phone's capacity allows just one type of information to convey far more than previously possible and the data can date back many years.

The ruling today does not prevent a search of an arrestee's cell phone; it simply says the police will have to obtain a search warrant if it wants to search the phone unless the police can demonstrate the existence of exigent circumstances. Examples offered by the Court of exigent circumstances included: to prevent the imminent destruction of evidence; to pursue a fleeing suspect; and to assist persons who are seriously injured or are threatened with imminent injury.

One wouldn't think today's decision bodes well for the increased use of technology like Stingray where police are grabbing cell phone data from multiple users within a geographic area, all without obtaining a search warrant. Both the Indiana State Police and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department are utilizing this technology.

UPDATE: This Chicago Tribune here discusses the Chicago Police Department's use of Stingray-like technology and how this decision likely makes its use unlawful as a result of this decision.

Sheriff John Layton's Incompetence Leads To Two More Inmates Being Mistakenly Released

It was just a week ago that the Marion County Sheriff's Department mistakenly released two inmates from the county jail. Now officials working for Sheriff John Layton have admitted that two more inmates have been mistakenly released. Sasha Chiclana was mistakenly released on Sunday, while Christopher Robinson was let go on Monday. Layton's staff is blaming a new software system for the mistakes according to WRTV. "As with other large-scale software conversions, issues are being addressed immediately by the appropriate entities once they are identified," Carlson wrote in a statement to the media. Perhaps if Sheriff Layton made an effort to hire competent employees instead of political hacks looking to fill make-work jobs, he wouldn't have such an incompetent and grossly inefficient department. Somehow his office manages to spend more money than it did prior to the merger with IMPD when officers performing policing duties in the unincorporated areas were merged into the consolidated police department.

UPDATE: An interested reader notes that Sheriff Layton is hiring civilian personnel for security positions at the city-county building, including the staffing of metal detectors. Some employees appear to be high school graduates without any formal law enforcement training. The reader is concerned that someone is going to get hurt if more care isn't taken in staffing these positions.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Three Year-Old E-Mail From City Controller Discussing ROC Funding Issue Foretold IMPD Funding Problem

As former Public Safety Director Frank Straub and other members of the Ballard administration scrambled to salvage Straub's ill-fated plan to establish a Regional Operations Center at the former Eastgate Mall site after the Administration & Finance Committee tabled the plan, an e-mail sent by former City Controller Jeff Spalding revealed big holes in the honestly-balanced budget meme on which Mayor Greg Ballard was touting as he ran for re-election to a second term against Democrat Melina Kennedy. The scramble to explain funding for the ROC came after the Administration & Finance Committee tabled a proposal to approve the leasing of 210,000 square feet of space at the committee's April 12, 2011 committee meeting. The committee members were completely caught off guard by the enormity of the undertaking (a lease costing more than $1 million annually over a 20-year period) at the same time Homeland Security Director Gary Coons and Jonathan Mayes, counsel for the Department of Public Safety, were unable to answer basic questions committee members had of them about the lease.

It wasn't until near the end of the discussion that committee members learned that the ROC had to be operational six months prior to the Super Bowl the following year, and that construction at the site had already commenced despite the lack of an approved and signed lease agreement as required by state law. "I am not amused," Councilor Jackie Nytes said upon learning that last fact as the proposal was tabled by the committee. Before giving any kudos to Nytes, you should know that she totally discredited herself earlier in the meeting when she told Coons and Mayes that she would have no problem supporting approval of the lease if they told her that this was something they needed to get done because of the Super Bowl. Nytes, of course, provided critical support for passage of the approval of the sale of the water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy, which provided the necessary funding for Mayor Ballard's more than $400 million Rebuild Indy infrastructure spending program. Nytes was later rewarded with a paid board appointment on Citizens Energy's board, along with a six-figure job as the new CEO of the Indianapolis public library.

"I am sure Jon told you, they tabled it due to lack of information specific to the lease," Coons said in an e-mail later that evening to Director Straub. "Wow-that is ridiculous," Straub replied. Councilor Maryilyn Pfisterer, who chaired the committee meeting, e-mailed administration folks to let them know "the lease generated some heat tonight." "Lots of info about Public Safety--not much about the lease itself," Pfisterer wrote. She wondered "why the need for so much square footage?", how it would "impact DPS' budget going forward" and "how does this comport with the proposed new IFD headquarters?".

Councilor Ben Hunter, who co-sponsored the ROC lease proposal with Councilor Mary Moriarty-Adams, fumed over the committee's action in an e-mail to Ryan Vaughn. "Perfect platform for embarrassment," Hunter complained. "Someone should brief the Mayor he was very well thrown under the bus tonight." Hunter complained about the heat he and Mary were getting from area residents in their districts near Eastgate Mall and how Melina Kennedy was already capitalizing on the misstep. He complained that nobody raised any questions about the lease during the Republican caucus meeting the night before. "Mary vetted it in her caucus, and again not one councilor raised a red flag," Hunter said. He defended the fact that construction had already started on the project, noting "that's the owner's decision to do so." In a follow-up e-mail to Straub and his chief of staff, Hunter derisively said that he should have taken into account "this committee's past history in not passing simple leases." "My apologies and there will be some serious hand holding by Mary and I moving forward," he concluded. Hunter and Adams, along with Mayor Ballard, received large campaign contributions from the owner of the Eastgate Mall while these discussions were underway.

Over the course of the next two weeks, Straub's office scrambled to make the proposed lease agreement more palatable to council members. The square footage was cut substantially from 210,000 to 76,000 square feet. A decision had suddenly been made to move the East District IMPD headquarters to the ROC, allowing its current lease on Shadeland to expire in June. Councilor Adams wondered what happened to the plan to move K-9, Swat and ATF into the ROC. "These seem to be huge changes over a 10-day time frame," Adams wrote in an e-mail to Straub. "As we continued to model out the project it became clear that we could not afford the 210,000 sq ft at this time," Straub replied. Straub said the other specialized units might be consolidated at the ROC in the future if the financial picture improves.

By moving the East District to the ROC, Straub looked to save about $250,000 a year in costs from that lease. Straub further conceded that the FBI would not have any permanent presence at the building following the Super Bowl. He said the feds were, however, donating furniture and a "significant portion" of the wiring costs for the ROC. Around the same time, an e-mail from Mayes to Straub and other DPS staff members lamented that there wasn't enough space within the 76,000 square feet area to fit what was known as MECA before Straub made the decision to do away with MECA. That came in response to an e-mail from Straub's chief of staff, Carolin Requiz-Smith inquiring if "we can fit them in the ROC." Mayes said, "We can look at adding them in Phase II or III." MECA, by the way, served as Marion County's emergency planning agency prior to Straub doing away with it, in part, due to disagreements with its boss. Straub wasn't interested in hearing about better, more economical options for locating the ROC at a site near the airport that had already been identified.

Ten days after the Administration and Finance Committee tabled the ROC lease, Straub's staff asked to meet with then-Controller Jeff Spalding to discuss revenue options for funding the ROC lease. Spalding furnished a brief revenue outlook for IMPD funding in the coming years in an e-mail to Straub and his staff that was bleak to say the least. Spalding described the two largest sources of funding for IMPD's $195 million operating budget as coming from the local option income taxes ($105 million and property taxes ($40 million). IMPD also received about $3.5 million from a variety of smaller tax sources (vehicle excise taxes and financial institutions tax), along with $6.5 million from the county rainy day fund, $3.8 million from parking meter revenues and $5.4 million from the wastewater PILOT, with the balance coming in the form of federal and state grants. Spalding's discussion of local income tax revenues was particularly enlightening when he explained that the City only had a Rainy Day Fund because state officials had intentionally over-distributed local income tax revenues to Indianapolis and Marion County to lessen the economic impact of the Great Recession:
Even as economic recovery begins to raise taxable income in Marion County, there is the overhang of past over-distribution by the State. Through 2010, the State distributed more local income tax revenues to local governments than it actually collected on behalf of local governments. The reasons this happened require a much longer separate discussion, but this is how the City-County accumulated its Rainy Day Fund. The proposed state budget, now moving towards passage in the Indiana General Assembly, presumes that distributions of local income tax will be held flat through 2015 as the State recaptures this past over-distribution.
Spalding estimated that the "course correction" would take at least four years to correct unless the taxable income of Marion County residents substantially outpaced the statewide average growth in income tax collections. Spalding projected that property tax revenues would grow at 2.5% on average, although he noted the speculative nature of that projection without knowing the full impact of property tax caps in the coming years and the cumulative decisions of all local governments impacted by property tax caps. Spalding thought it was doubtful that IMPD would be able to rely on any county rainy day funds in 2012. Of particular note was Spalding's comment about the $3.8 million that IMPD had been getting from parking meter revenues. He warned Straub and his staff that "there is no guarantee that these $ can continue to be used to support IMPD.

Indeed, the City-County Council's approval of the privatization of the City's parking meter revenues in November 2010, which was taken over by the private operator in March 2011, provided that the City's share of parking meter revenues would be used to pay for street, sidewalk and infrastructure improvements in the downtown area and Broad Ripple Village. Spaulding added, "Not many councilors truly understand the 'funding box' that municipal government is operating within, but J. Nytes certainly does." "Does the possibility exist that some paradigm shifting change will happen over the next decade to alter current trajectory of local government revenues in Indiana generally or Marion County specifically?" he rhetorically asked. "Sure! But we can't plan on it."

E-mails produced to the ROC Investigating Committee don't shed any light on how the administration explained that it was going to pay for the costs of the ROC lease. A new model with the scaled-down lease footprint for the ROC was not fully devised until a day before the administration made a new presentation to the Administration & Finance Committee. Only two days before the committee hearing, DPS' attorney, Jon Mayes, was still learning details about the lease agreement according to one e-mail when he seemed surprised that it was shifting to a 25-year agreement (rather than 20) with the first lease payments not kicking in until January 1, 2013. The lease payments were revised to $685,000 for the first ten years of the lease, rising to $760,000, which didn't include substantial, ongoing maintenance and utility expenses. Although the leased space was reduced in size by nearly two-thirds, charge per square foot rose more than 40%. The 25-year term of the lease payments included the initial build-out costs of about $8.6 million. The building's owner received funding for the costs of the build-out upfront from its lender, Wells Fargo. As to the City's funding for the ROC lease, Straub cautioned his staff not to "go crazy." He told his staff in an e-mail that his was "comfortable" telling council members that "the controller projects [annual] property tax levy increases of 2 1/2 percent going forward, better fiscal mgt., potential fees, etc." Despite his "poor" revenue outlook, Spalding agreed to help Straub's staff articulate revenue assumptions to deal with any potential hang-ups council members might have.

During that second presentation to the Administration & Finance Committee, you will see in the video below where Straub and his staff deliberately lied to the committee members about being able to get out of the lease in the future at any point if the council simply chose not to appropriate funds to pay for the lease. Straub would also claim that only demolition work and not build-out work had commenced at Eastgate. After a snow-job of a presentation by Straub and his staff during which council members proved completely inept at delving more deeply into questioning the lease proposal in front of them, the committee unanimously voted to send it to the full council and the rest is history. City legal would claim that it never signed off on the lease. Yet we now know that the administration, even after learning of the one-sided lease agreement negotiated by Straub and Mayes and the laundry list of problems with the property that would force DPS to vacate the space until the landlord made repairs, signed another agreement with the landlord locking the city into the long-term, credit-tenant lease agreement and relieving the landlord of any liability to the city for all of the problems encountered after the City took possession of the leased space. And, of course, the council never got an answer to the big question about relocating IFD's headquarters until we learned much later that a sweetheart deal with a pay-to-play developer would result in the City incurring nearly $60 million in added costs related to that relocation of IFD's headquarters, the Station 7 and the Firefighter's Credit Union, along with the gifting of the valuable property currently owned by the City to the pay-to-play developer for its private development use.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Curry Accepts State Police Cover Up Of ROC Corruption, Proving Once Again What A Useless Prosecutor He Is

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry ran for prosecutor in 2010 promising to make prosecution of public corruption cases one of his top priorities. After taking office in January 2011, he has yet to stop peddling backwards on that promise, proving himself as inept as Carl Brizzi on that score. People figured out right away that his public corruption helpline was only set up to identify whistle blowers so they could be appropriately punished. Everyone knows that Curry essentially washed his hands of this investigating the day he asked the Indiana State Police, which is administered by Greg Ballard's good friend, to assume responsibility for the investigation.. The ISP, which is only interested in prosecuting government whistle blowers, lived up to its reputation and so has Terry Curry. The ISP's non-investigation of the corrupt ROC deal is good enough for Curry according to Fox 59 News' Russ McQuaid:
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry told Fox 59 News that his office will not file any criminal charges related to the controversial 25-year lease of the Regional Operations Center on Indianapolis’ east side. 
“It was not our role to determine if it was a one-sided lease or the terms were inappropriate,” said Curry. Last December the prosecutor asked Indiana State Troopers to examine the $18 million bargain for a combination command center/IMPD headquarters that opened in time for the 2012 Super Bowl despite major workmanship flaws and fire safety hazards. 
Curry said detectives told him they examined enough evidence and interviewed enough witnesses to determine there was no crime in the agreement . . . 
Curry asked troopers to examine the negotiation, execution and performance of the lease. A number of sources have indicated to Fox 59 News that it is not illegal to sign an ill-advised faulty lease and take possession of a command center that is not yet completed and contains several design, workmanship and safety problems.
Yeah, Russ, that's the answer you get when you only talk to people who provide the answers you want to hear. It doesn't even sound like Curry bothered to put anyone under oath in front of a grand jury. He just took the word of ISP detectives that their work was adequate. Once again, I would extend an open invitation to all of the corrupt pols up in Chicago to relocate to Indianapolis where you can steal and plunder from the taxpayers as much as your heart desires as long as you're stuffing money in the right people's pockets. You will never have to fear prosecution from either the federal or state prosecutors here. Hell, the media will even pat you on the back and tell the public what great civic leaders you are while you're stealing the public's money after bribing our public officials.

Privatization The Chicago Way

The pitfalls of privatizing government assets and services are quite apparent to anyone who hasn't been living under a rock, but the temptation to keep trying it in hopes of getting a better result never seems to be in short supply. The latest rendition in Chicago is causing real heartburn for those who expect transparency in accounting for how public dollars are spent. Add to former Chicago Mayor's great failure in privatizing the city's parking meter assets his crafty plan that circumvented state laws governing the privatization of public assets by transferring control of a valued publicly-owned tourism asset, Navy Pier, to a nonprofit entity. The Sun-Times' Tim Novak learns that the state's public records law doesn't apply to the nonprofit entity despite the fact that taxpayer-backed bonds have provided $115 million to renovate the nearly one-hundred year-old pier.

Navy Pier, dubbed as Illinois' biggest tourist attraction, had been under the control of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, commonly referred to as McPier, which also oversees McCormick Place, the country's largest convention center. In 2010, the legislature decided that both McCormick Place and Navy Pier would be better off under private operators and passed legislation accomplishing that aim over the objections of Gov. Pat Quinn, who was concerned that the private operators would be able to skirt state purchasing rules. The Democratic-controlled legislature's primary concern in seeking to privatize Chicago's principal convention and tourist venue was to side-step the unions it complained were driving up costs too much. Through a competitive bidding process, McPier awarded the management of McCormick Place to SMG. The authority took a different tact in privatizing Navy Pier, which allowed it to skirt the public bidding process altogether required under the enabling privatization law.

McPier entered into a 3-year, one dollar a year contract with a newly-created nonprofit corporation, Navy Pier, Inc., ("NPI") to operate Navy Pier. The authority entertained no competitive bids at the time in determining to whom the management agreement would be awarded, arguing that because it was turning control over a nonprofit rather than a private company there was no true privatization of the publicly-owned facility. At the time, McPier's CEO, Jim Reilly, claimed the deal would get the Pier "out of politics" with "a lot less patronage."

According to tax returns NPI files with the IRS, it has at least four employees earning more than the $180,000 the state's governor is paid. One of the higher paid employees is the son of a long-time political advisor to Daley, Tim Degnan. Its CEO receives salary and benefit valued at nearly $400,000. It has paid out bonuses of as much as $37,500 to top executives. In 2012, it reported $42.6 million in revenues and expenditures of nearly $40 million, including $2.8 million for salaries.

Notwithstanding Reilly's claims that NPI's control of Navy Pier would be less political, the Sun-Times found that former Mayor Richard Daley's political hands were all over the deal. Daley's former chief of staff, John Schmidt, incorporated Navy Pier, Inc. just months before Daley left office. NPI's board included Daley's daughter, his former campaign chairman, two of his former chiefs of staff, his former top city attorney and civic leaders Daley counted among his campaign contributors and supporters. NPI refuses to respond to requests about who it employs or how much they are paid, arguing that its records are exempt from state law since it's not a governmental agency, a position backed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office.

The Attorney General's office said the documents sought could simply be acquired by requesting them from McPier, but the authority's CEO claims it doesn't have any of NPI's records, including information about any contracts awarded to minority and women-owned businesses as required by the $115 million in taxpayer dollars spent on renovating the facility. The Better Government Association is now filing a lawsuit in the Cook County courts to seek a court order forcing McPier and NPI to produce the documents that have been requested, arguing that the nonprofit was set up solely for the purpose of shielding Navy Pier's operations from public view.

Similarly, the Sun-Times finds that Choose Chicago, the city's convention and tourism bureau, refuses to produce any of its records in response to public records requests, a position supported by Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office. Half of Choose Chicago's funding comes from the City of Chicago and the McPier Authority, which rely on a variety of taxes to fund grants made to Choose Chicago. Choose Chicago has a payroll of $8.4 million, including the $412,000 it pays to Don Welsh as its CEO. Welsh formerly served as CEO of Visit Indy before taking the job in Chicago. Choose Chicago is also not subject to public audit requirements despite the millions in taxpayer dollars it receives annually.

Chicago must have decided to take a page out of Indianapolis' downtown mafia's playbook. They've been using nonprofits like Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, Visit Indy, etc. to divert tens of millions of public tax dollars in order to shield how the money is being spent from the public's view. At least someone in the media in Chicago is complaining about it. The Indianapolis Star, the Indianapolis Business Journal and the four local TV stations all support these non-transparent moves to keep the public in the dark on the expenditure of large sums of public funds for the exclusive benefit of a handful of elitist insiders.

Iraqi Judge Who Sentenced Saddam Hussein To Death Captured And Executed By ISIS

Judge: Raouf Abdul Rahman who sentenced former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to death has reportedly been captured and executed by ISIS militants
The judge who presided over the trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and sentenced him to death was reportedly captured by ISIS insurgents last week. The Daily Mail is now reporting that Judge Raouf Abdul Rahman has been executed. Judge Rahman had reportedly tried to escape Baghdad dressed in a dancer's uniform. A target had been placed on his head by Sunni Muslims after the botched manner in which Hussein's execution was carried out and videotaped by Shi-ite Muslims. Fearing for his life, Judge Rahman had reportedly filed an asylum claim with Great Britain in 2007, a claim that was denied by the Iraqi High Criminal Court Tribunal.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

IMPD Captain Arrested For Drunk Driving

Various Indianapolis media outlets are reporting that IMPD Captain Mark Rice was arrested while off-duty on suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated on the City's west side near I-465 and West Washington Street. Lt. Chris Bailey says that Rice has been placed on administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation. Rice's arrest was made by the Indianapolis International Airport Police. According to WRTV, Rice is the sixth IMPD officer arrested for drunk driving since last August.

Buttigieg Tells Newspaper His Work In Afghanistan Involves Drugs, Finance And Terrorism

Pete Buttigieg
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has provided his first on-record interview for a reporter since arriving for his military intelligence assignment in Afghanistan as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve in March. Although he told the South Bend Tribune's Erin Blasko he was limited in what he could say because his work involved intelligence, he gave her as specific of a response as you could expect: "I can tell you that I'm working on the intersection of drugs, finance and terrorism," Buttigieg said, commenting for the first time in any detail on his work in the country. "I'm assigned to a counterterrorism organization called the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, he continued. "My missiion is to protect the homeland and target the most dangerous drug trafficking organizations in Afghanistan."

Blasko's story doesn't elaborate a whole lot on what the Afghan Threat Finance Cell does. It's a multi-intelligence organization that is the brainchild of Gen. David Petraeus when he commanded the Afghan War. The ATFC is comprised of about 30 specialists on loan from the Department of Drug Enforcement, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense’s CENTCOM, the CIA, and the FBI, who try to identify and disrupt sources of Taliban funding according to Time magazine. Buttigieg is likely working there in a role as a CIA asset. His mother graciously reminds us in Blasko's story of her son's prior work in Afghanistan for a CIA front company. "[Anne] Montgomery, a Notre Dame graduate and retired professor at the university, noted that her son has been to Afghanistan before," Blasko writes. "He traveled there as a consultant with McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm based in the U.S., before becoming mayor." "His work is classified, so we know absolutely nothing about it," Montgomery added. He mother said he's "very interested" in the work he does there, but when she asks what he's doing "there's dead air."

According to Douglas Wissing, author of "Funding the Enemy: How the U.S. Taxpayers Bankroll The Taliaban," U.S. efforts in Afghanistan are flagging largely because we're funding the enemy. Wissing spoke to officials working for ATFC in preparing his book. "The official confirmed the U.S. and civilian reports that the insurgents used extortion of U.S. development and logistics contracts for their funding," Wissing said. "He cited logistics-convoy security shakedowns, construction-protection rackets, Taliban 'taxes' on corrupt officials, payoffs from international NGOs and major Afghan businesses—such as cell phones, utilities, and banks—as well as skims from poorly overseen Afghan government projects of the National Solidarity Program." Wissing says that much of the money flowing into Afghanistan makes its way into the hands of the Taliban, who are waging war against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Wissing says U.S. soldiers compare it to the mafia with everyone on the take.

As to the heroin drug trade in the country, reporter Dean Henderson, author of "Big Oil and Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families and Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics and Terror Network," attributes its explosion to the CIA-led activities in the country. "They've been running it from the get-go, all the way back to when the Mujahideen were formed," Henderson said. "It's been the same game starting with Jimmy Carter's people through Reagan, the Bushes, Clinton and now Obama." According to Henderson, the drug warlords in Afghanistan were tied to CIA asset Osama bin Laden from the moment the U.S. began funding the resistance to Soviet occupation of the country.

Buttigieg described the living and working quarters where he is based in Afghanistan as "utilitarian." He sleeps in a modified shipping container, showers in an adjacent shipping container and his office is in a shipper container. "They're kind of like the Legos of Afghanistan," he said. He tells Blasko that it has only recently gotten warm in the country, noting that the mountainous climate of Afghanistan makes temperatures cooler than one might think. He stays connected with the latest news back home through the Internet, and talks weekly to Deputy Mayor Mike Neal, who is acting as mayor in his absence, and other city staff members using Skype.

Buttigieg tells Blasko that most people with whom he works know little about his background as mayor of South Bend until they Google his name and catch on pretty quickly. He said reactions to him being a mayor vary. "Obviously it's a curiosity," he said. "On a broader level, it doesn't really matter. Here it's, 'Can the person get the job done, and can I trust this person with my life?'" He said his experience of running into people on his base from South Bend has been "a little bit disorienting."It's always unexpected ... but it's always nice to feel that connection to home," he said. "It's also a reminder how, even a little city like ours has people all around the world."

Afghanistan recently conducted elections in Afghanistan for president. "We're just pretty excited that Election Day went well," he says, referring to the recent runoff for Afghan president, on June 14," Buttigieg said. "One of the things that's been pretty inspiring around here, all the Afghans I met in the last few days had their fingers inked to mark that they voted," he said. Blasko notes that insurgents cut off the fingers of 11 voters and killed at least 20 more because they participated in the election. Buttigieg acknowledged ongoing safety concerns in the "war zone." "Part of my routine, of course, is I don't leave the room without a gun." Buttigieg expects to leave Afghanistan in September to return home.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Former Senior Ballard Administration Official Pleads Guilty In Land Bank Kickback Scheme

Local corruption
Reggie Walton (left) and John Hawkins (right)
John Hawkins, a former senior project manager for the Department of Metropolitan Development who once worked as a personal assistant to Mayor Greg Ballard, has pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with charges he faced concerning a kickback scheme involving the City's Land Bank program for dealing with abandoned homes. Hawkins was accused, along with another DMD employee, Reggie Walton, of concocting a scheme to transfer abandoned homes to nonprofit organizations which, in turn, flipped them to private investors and then kicked back part of the profits to Hawkins and Walton. The IBJ report didn't indicate whether Hawkins pleaded guilty to the single count in exchange for cooperation in ongoing public corruption investigations involving city government.

According to the IBJ, Walton and three other defendants charged in the scheme are awaiting trial, including David Johnson, executive director of the Indiana Minority AIDS Coalition; Randall Sargent, owner and president of New Day Residential Development; and Aaron Reed, a friend of Walton. Walton and Johnson were also accused of taking money from persons defrauded in home sales while they were supposed to be helping the Marion Co. Prosecutor's Office provide restitution to them after they were defrauded by Sheila Amos, who sold vacant homes that she didn't own to the unsuspecting homebuyers. Walton faces separate charges for accepting kickbacks from a contract the City entered into with Mark Harsley to mow lawns of properties owned by the Land Bank. Harsley is also charged with wire fraud.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Prostitution Scandal Claims Boone County Sheriff Ken Campbell's Job

A joint investigation of the FBI and the Boone County-Hamilton County Drug Task concerning alleged misconduct with a prostitute over the last three to four years led to the abrupt resignation today of Boone County Sheriff Ken Campbell (R). WRTV published the following statement Campbell released to the media announcing his resignation:
"Certain allegations have recently arisen in regards to my conduct.  While I believe I have committed no illegal acts, I must apologize for serious errors of judgment in my personal life.   I have thoughtlessly and deeply hurt my family, friends, co-workers and those who placed their trust in me.
I will make no excuses for my actions because there are no excuses.   I also realize that some might believe that all my previous words about honor, duty and responsibility now seem hypocritical.  While I completely understand those concerns, I would just say that I did, and still do, believe in those ideals even if I did not live up to them in my own personal life.
I will have no further statement on this matter and would ask for privacy as I work to regain the trust of my loving wife Shari and our family who has needlessly suffered because of my self-centered actions.  I will also work to again be worthy of the trust that so many placed in me over the years.
For now I am preparing to submit my retirement paperwork forthwith.
Chief Deputy Nielsen, whom also deserves a public apology because of my thoughtlessness, will serve as acting Sheriff."
Mike Nielsen, who has a 25-year working relationship with Campbell and served as his chief deputy, has assumed the duties as acting sheriff. He was nominated in the Republican primary this year to succeed Campbell, who was running unopposed for a seat on the county council in November. Nielsen told reporters he was unsure whether criminal charges would be filed against Campbell.

UPDATE: Boone Co. GOP Chairwoman Debbie Ottinger tells the Star that Campbell is also dropping his election bid for the county council in November. His vacancy on the ballot will be filled by a person chosen by precinct committeepersons within the district.

Federal Audit Finds Elevate Ventures Intentionally Misspent $500,000

The question we should be asking ourselves is why is it even legal for the government to take our tax dollars and dole it out to private businesses of its choosing, but that's the way business is now conducted in the Nazi-styled government known as the United States of America. The U.S. Treasury has a State Business Credit Initiative under which it passes out billions of dollars to the states to dole out to businesses. That's where this latest scandal comes into play.

In 2011, Indiana received $34.3 million from the Treasury for the program. The State, in turn, allocated $21 million to a Venture Capital Program administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. IEDC, in turn, entered into a contract with a nonprofit company, Elevate Ventures, to handle the disbursement of $9.5 million through its Angel Network Fund.

That's where Howard Bates' software firm, Smarter Remarketer, comes into play. Bates was serving as chairman of Elevate Ventures when its chief executive officer, Stephen Hourigan, recommended that Smarter Remarketer receive $500,000 from the Angel Network Fund, even though Hourigan knew Bates owned more than a 10% interest in Smarter Remarketer. Elevate Ventures seemed to think that none of the rules that would apply to a government actor applied to it because they were a nonprofit company contracted by a state agency, and as such, was not a government agency. Hourigan also recommended for approval another $300,000 given to another company, MaxTradeIn, which was owned by Bates' son, Justin.

Bates earlier co-founded Haverstick Consulting, a Carmel software company that suddenly started getting a bunch of government contracts after Bates brought aboard Steve Hilbert of Conseco infamy as an investor and CEO after he got tossed out the company he founded. According to the Star, Haverstick Consulting has won about $30 million in state contracts since 2001. Hilbert later sold Haverstick Consulting to a San Diego-based company for $90 million in 2007. Hilbert, of course, was later sued by billionaire hardware store owner John Menard after he plundered nearly a half billion dollars in a very short period of time held by an investment equity firm Menard had hired him to manage. Menard accused Hilbert of charging exorbitant fees and investing money in companies he and his wife controlled in the process of losing most of the equity fund's money. Bates and Haverstick Consulting contributed $80,000 to various Republican campaign committees, including former Gov. Mitch Daniels' committee.

When the Star first raised questions about the propriety of the investments Elevate Ventures made in the companies owned by Bates and his son, Gov. Pence ordered a review of the transactions, which naturally concluded nothing wrong had been done. The Office of Inspector General for the Treasury Department has concluded otherwise. Its audit determined that Elevate had "intentionally misused" the money invested in Bates' Smarter Remarketer. The federal audit cleared the transaction with Bates' son since the father didn't own an interest in it, although it acknowledged the transaction raised an "appearance of partiality."  Pence told the IBJ that the "matter was closed" when asked if the state was planning to take any action against Elevate. Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

Mahern To Co-Sponsor Ballard's Rebuild Indy II Proposal According To Source

A reliable source informs Advance Indiana that Brian Mahern, who has become a thorn in the side of the Democratic caucus as of late, has agreed to co-sponsor Mayor Greg Ballard's Rebuild Indy II proposal rather than support the Democratic alternative plan announced by Democrats yesterday. The source indicates that Mahern has had a change of heart about seeking re-election and now plans to run against at-large Councilor Zach Adamson in his newly-drawn district next year. Mayor Ballard convinced state lawmakers to eliminate the four at-large council positions originally written into state law by Republican lawmakers to ensure Republican control of the council. Adamson intends to seek the district seat currently occupied by Mahern in next year's municipal race. With Mahern supporting Ballard's Rebuild Indy II plan, that will once again put independent Republican Christine Scales in the driver's seat to determine which party's plan has enough votes to pass the full council.

UPDATE: Funny thing happened. After I posted this earlier this afternoon, the egomaniac radio talk show host, Abdul-Hakim Shabazz, read our post and then tried to claim credit for breaking the story. The guy is as shameless as he is unethical.

The Man From Indiana Linked To Anonymous That You've Never Read About

Matthew Paul DeHart
Matt DeHart is a 29-year old man from the small town of Newburgh, Indiana nestled along the Ohio River in Warrick County not talked much about by folks in the Indiana media or any other media across the United States of America for that matter, but his ongoing legal battles with the U.S. government places him at the center of the debate taking place in this country over the growing national security state and the impact it has had on the loss of Americans' fundamental constitutional rights. DeHart,  a military veteran, belongs to a long line of family members who have served in the armed services of our country. Yet he and his parents now find themselves exiled in Canada where he is being held at a maximum security prison and is hoping and praying Canadian officials grant him refugee protection to avoid political persecution in the United States at the hands of our government, who he claims subjected him to torture while interrogating him in a case involving leaked national security documents.

DeHart's story, as recounted in the National Post by Adrian Humphreys' lengthy expose', "Hacker, Creeper, Soldier, Spy," links him to the controversial hactivist group, Anonymous, which targets governments, organizations and corporations they accuse of censorship. According to DeHart, he was part of a group of eight loosely connected Internet activists who carried out Project Chanology against the Church of Scientology. The U.S. government has charged him with soliciting the production of child pornography in a case arising out of the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis. DeHart claims that he's been targeted by the government as part of its investigation of Anonymous and Wikileaks. When he crossed the border into Canada with his parents in April, 2013, his father announced to a wide-eyed border patrol agent that his U.S. citizen family was seeking asylum in Canada to escape persecution from illegal torture in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

The DeHart family seems like the most unlikely of American families to seek refuge from this country. Matt's father, Paul, is a retired major from the United States Air Force who attained a top national security clearance during his service. His service includes stints at Augsburg, Germany and Fort Meade where he was trained to monitor foreign military communications during the height of the Cold War. Paul met Matt's mother while both were serving in the military. Leann DeHart also had a security clearance monitoring radio communications. She gave birth to Matt prematurely in 1985 at Walter Reed military hospital while she and Paul were stationed at Fort Meade. Paul worked at the National Security Agency with his top military clearance until he retired in 1994. He went into Christian ministry following his retirement and the family settled in Newburgh. In April, 2005, Rev. DeHart was quoted in an Evansville newspaper story speaking out at an Indiana Family Institute gathering of pastors opposed to same-sex marriage where former U.S. Rep. John Hostettler also spoke.  "If we don't stand for God's principles in our society, who will?" "What God has given us is the gift of democracy." DeHart added, "Christians make the best citizens because we don't answer just to local magistrates."

Humphreys describes Matt as being a sharp computer geek as a child who enjoyed spending a lot of time on the Internet playing computer games with others of like mind and who was curious about the work his father did at the NSA. As a teen-ager, he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder for which he was prescribed Adderall. His computer adventures caused problems for him in the 9th grade when he was cited for using AOL instant messenger to post a bomb threat to the school he attended as a prank. In the 10th grade, he successfully hacked into the school's computer to steal a midterm science examination that his friends decided would be a good idea to sell for $10 a piece. By his late teens, Matt had become an activist of sorts on the government's use of security contractors like Blackwater during the Iraq War. He and an Internet community of activists communicated with one another via Tor, a hidden Internet network, and shared information using a computer server in his parents' home on which he hosted The Shell, a private document sharing database. Matt traces his troubles to the discovery of a document uploaded to The Shell anonymously back in 2009 that contained highly-sensitive information about an FBI investigation of CIA practices. Matt told Humphreys that he removed the sensitive file from the server, which he believed was intended to be leaked to Wikileaks.

In January, 2010, Matt was home alone after his parents left for work when a team of FBI officers arrived at his house with a search warrant and began confiscating computers and other items during a search of the home. When the FBI agents left, Matt discovered after reading the search warrant that the purpose of the search related to a child porn investigation, which he claimed he was shocked to discover. He tells Humphreys that he never possessed child porn or solicited it, and that there was nothing incriminating on his computers that would implicate him as being a pedophile. He believed the child porn charges were an ulterior motive being used by the government to punish him for his online activities with Anonymous. According to Matt, the FBI agents missed the most sensitive information he had in his possession, which he kept stored on two thumb drives hidden behind his father's gun case. He later drove his parents' car to Mexico where he transferred files on the thumb drives to two individuals he had met through his involvement with Anonymous.

Matt insists that he considers himself a patriot who voted for Bush. "My family is military, pretty gung ho," he said. "But everything has changed." Like his parents, Matt enlisted for military service after receiving his education at Ivy Tech following his graduation from high school where he had been described as an exceptionally intelligent student. In 2008, he enrolled in the U.S. Air National Guard and was stationed at the 181st Intelligence Wing division at Terre Haute's Hulman Field. He said he earned a top security clearance and received training on how to fly the Predator, Global Hawk and other military drones before he was honorably discharged in June, 2009. Matt attributed his discharge due to a diagnosis of depression, which the military deemed incompatible for someone entrusted to fly military drones.

Following the search warrant executed on the DeHart's family home in Newburgh, the military family's view of their government changed considerably. Matt's parents protest their son's innocence of the child porn allegations. This is where things take a strange twist. Paul's father drives Matt to Washington, D.C. where Matt pays separate visits to both the Russian and Venezuelan embassies. Matt insists that he was looking for a way out of the country, and he hoped to leverage his military background to win that exit. What Matt didn't know was that the FBI was tracking his movements in D.C. Dissatisfied with his interviews with officials at both embassy officials, Matt decided to move to Canada where his parents had frequently vacationed to enroll in school. After making plans to attend a small college on Prince Edward Island, he traveled back across the border at Calais, Maine in August, 2010 to get his U.S. passport stamped at the border patrol office for a student visa to re-enter Maine, which turned out to be a big mistake.

Matt tells Humphreys that a scan of his passport triggered an alarm that led to his immediate apprehension by border patrol agents. According to an FBI document, Matt was interrogated by agents about his plans to sell military secrets to the Russian government. Matt had supposedly waived his right to have an attorney present and began spilling the beans. The government believes that Matt had reached an understanding with a Russian agent at the embassy in Washington to relocate to Canada where he would begin working as a spy for the Russian government through liaisons there. The FBI claims that Matt also outed other military colleagues in the Air National Guard in Terre Haute who were trying to sell military secrets. One of them supposedly had access to a Defense Department Internet portal, while another had training and repair manuals for fighter jets and other military secrets.

Matt's version of the interrogation is entirely different. He claims that he was taken into a room and held down in a chair and forcefully administered a drug through an IV inserted into his arm before being taken into a room to be interrogated by two FBI agents. Throughout a lengthy interrogation, Matt claimed that he was denied access to food or water or bathroom facilities. When he defecated on the floor at the instructions of one of his interrogators after being denied access to a bathroom, he claims bleach was poured on him. He claimed he was stripped naked and tied to a submission chair with a bag over his head, awakening to find burn marks on his arms. The only drink he was offered was Kool-Aid he claims that he could only have to wash down pills he was ordered to swallow. He claims that he would have told the agents anything they wanted to hear, including providing them user names and passwords to all of his online accounts, which government agents he said later used to communicate with others with whom he had associated online under his identity to get more information from them in their investigation of Anonymous and Wikileaks.

When his interrogation on espionage matters ended, he was then told he was being formally charged with the child porn charges arising out of Tennessee. Before making his first court appearance, however, he was rushed to a hospital where an emergency room physician diagnosed him with suffering from a drug-induced psychotic episode. When he was finally taken before a U.S. magistrate in Bangor, Maine four days after his initial arrest, the judge wondered why the government had misstated in their court filing the day of his arrest by two days and delayed his initial appearance. She also wondered why the government was bringing what she viewed as stale charges against the defendant or why it hadn't bothered to analyze the computers they seized from his home so many months earlier for child pornographic materials.

Meanwhile, DeHart's parents had totally been in the dark about his whereabouts until medical bills from his emergency room visit to the hospital in Maine started showing up at their house. After Matt collapsed during a court appearance, officials finally put him in touch with his parents by telephone who they described as sounding like a complete zombie. Over the next 17 months, they would spend their life savings on attorneys seeking to exonerate him on the child pornography charges in Tennessee, which the judge there concluded during a bail hearing seemed rather thin. Matt claims federal agents doctored Internet chats he had with a 14-year old boy who was assisting him on Anonymous to make it appear that he had engaged in sexual discussions with the teen and to make it appear that he had posed as a girl to entice the boy to provide nude pictures of himself. According to Humphreys' story, an affidavit completed by a detective in Tennessee contradicted testimony offered by the teen's mother about nude images she supposedly found on her boy's cell phone. The mother denied finding any images on her son's cell phone, as well as the circumstances of her expressing concerns about the communications he son was having with an older person.

The Tennessee judge hearing his case eventually released him on bail in May, 2012 nearly two years after his initial arrest. He filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him in November of that year, but he didn't stick around to wait for the judge's ruling. DeHart's parents tell Humphreys they grew weary of their son's prospects in the U.S. following Internet activist Aaron Swartz' suicide death in January, 2013 after the government devoted enormous resources in an effort to send him to prison for downloading materials from the Internet, including academic articles, without permission. In April, 2013, Matt drove with his parents to the Canadian border where they sought permission to enter under a claim of asylum where their case is still pending. Matt tells Humphreys that he turned over the contents of his thumb drives to Canadian officials, along with other documents he says supports his claim of asylum to escape torture in the U.S. while awaiting a decision strongly opposed by the U.S. government, which has requested their extradition back to the U.S. Matt has twice tried to commit suicide while being detained at the Maplehurst Correctional Complex, a maximum security facility near Toronto pejoratively referred to as the Milton Hilton.