MADD about Florida DUI Enforcement

The Leyritz DUI manslaughter trial has convinced me that Florida law enforcement doesn’t have a clue about how to prevent drunk driving.

Sidebar: MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) has done infinitely more to prevent drunk driving deaths than any cop or prosecutor in the world. Please visit the website and support their efforts.

Another Jury in the Dark

Over the past couple of weeks, a jury in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (famous for Easter Break binging), has heard only half the story of how a young woman died in a collision at an intersection in what the lawyers are euphemistically calling the “Entertainment District.” Apparently the only entertainment in Ft. Lauderdale is drinking.

The full story is that two drivers who had been drinking for several hours happened to reach the center of an intersection at exactly the same time. One of them obviously had a red light and the other obviously had a yellow light when they entered the intersection. Both drivers were over the speed limit at least slightly at the instant they collided. The driver wearing his seatbelt survived with a mild concussion. The driver without her seatbelt was thrown from her vehicle and died a grotesque, bloody death.

The survivor was arrested and held for several hours before the cops took a blood sample from him. Then an hour later they took a second blood sample from him, for reasons that have not been discussed before the courtroom cameras. He was then charged with DUI manslaughter. The victim’s blood was tested at the time of the autopsy. The blood-alcohol content levels (BAC) of both drivers were well over the legal limit of 0.08: the survivor’s BAC was discovered to be 0.14 and then 0.13 an hour later; the victim’s was 0.18 at the time she died.

What the Jury Heard

Through errors on the prosecution’s part, the fact that the victim of the crash as well as the survivor had been drinking came out in court. The jury also heard that the victim’s BAC was definitely 0.18 when she died (and that’s over twice the legal limit). The jury also heard that the defendant-survivor’s blood was drawn once three hours after the crash and that it tested at 0.14.

I believe any juror would assume that BAC levels go down and therefore the defendant’s BAC at the time of the crash had to be much, much higher than 0.14.

But It’s Less then Half the Story

But I now know that this is not true: BAC levels go up dramatically for a period of time after drinking. And both parties in the accident had taken drinks only a few minutes before the accident. And apparently the law that sets the legal BAC limit in FL at 0.08 applies only to the exact moment when the accident occurred.

So, any juror who assumes that a BAC sample drawn after an accident reveals the relevant BAC level (that is, the degree of inebriation) is mistaken. Experts in alcohol toxicity for both sides in the Leyritz case testified that the BAC level rises dramatically minute by minute and then falls slowly.

Not only that, but the cops in the Leyritz case completely bungled the DUI tests at every stage in the investigation:

  • At the scene an “expert” in the Field Sobriety Test administered it to Leyritz without taking into consideration that he might have a concussion from the collision. He concluded that Leyritz was over the legal limit as a result.
  • When Leyritz told the officer his lawyer had instructed him not to take the breathalyzer test, the officer then compelled him to submit to a blood test. But—duh—the paramedics at the scene were too busy trying to save the victim’s life to draw blood from Leyritz (this was at least 15 minutes after the collision—already too long after it to get an accurate reading, according to the experts).
  • So, the officer took Leyritz to a police station (I believe it was) where he asked an EMT to draw the blood. The EMT apparently tried several times, but couldn’t “get a stick” in his arm. (Since I’ve had this happen to me, too, I know it’s very painful. Not a BAC test, though!) During this process, the EMT rubbed alcohol on Leyritz’ arm several times. (Yes, I know alcohol evaporates rapidly in the air, but a small amount enters the arm at the puncture point, and small amounts is what the test is all about.)
  • Next, three hours after the collision, the officer took Leyritz to a hospital emergency room. According to the officer this was because he needed a nurse to draw the blood. According to the defense, it was because Leyritz was complaining of whiplash. After again wiping his arm with alcohol, the nurse was successful in drawing his blood using the cop’s supplied BAC test kit. She apparently “inverted” the test tube an inadequate number of times to mix the preservatives in the tube with the blood. This was the 0.14 BAC level.
  • For some unspecified reason, the officer ordered a second blood test an hour later (during which the nurse again wiped his arm with alcohol). This was illegal, but he did it anyway. The judge threw it out of court. The jury never heard about it or they would have learned that four hours after the collision, his BAC was going down (0.13).
  • However, the blood samples weren’t delivered to the toxicology lab for several more hours, and when they finally were dropped off, they were left in an unrefrigerated bin for several more hours before they were finally tested.
  • Since the samples were taken using a kit that wasn’t approved for BAC testing (it had insufficient preservatives), there was a good chance that the blood began to deteriorate in the intervening hours. This deterioration process was literally a fermentation process in which microbes (not bacteria, although the prosecutor didn’t know there was a difference) break the blood down and produce ethanol alcohol as a byproduct. In other words, by delaying the tests the cops probably increased the BAC.
  • The prosecution didn’t understand that the second blood sample was illegally obtained, because they had an expert witness extrapolate the defendant’s BAC at the time of the collision based on the decrease in the levels from the first to the second test. He calculated that the defendant’s BAC would have been 0.18.
  • After the judge excluded the second sample, the expert recalculated the BAC using some sort of standard model (I believe I heard someone say it was developed in the 1930s!). This time he concluded the defendant’s BAC would have been 0.196. And this is what the jury heard.
  • The defense expert, however, ran several models, all based on the first test’s result of 0.14. He took into account a wide range of factors that the prosecution expert completely ignored, including the defendant’s stomach contents, Body Mass Index, possible traumatic brain injury, etc. From his models he found that the defendant’s BAC at the time of the accident could have been as low as 0.04, was likely 0.07, but could have been 0.08 or slightly higher—but under no circumstances was it at all possible that the BAC was 0.196. And he explained why very clearly: the prosecution’s model assumed that all the drinks were consumed at one time, just minutes before the accident, producing an immediate spike in BAC and then that the BAC steadily declined for the next three hours.

Since it’s impossible for all these conclusions to be correct, what this trial tells me is that the state of the art of detecting blood-alcohol levels in accused drunk drivers is co
mpletely inadequate for justice
to be administered based on blood tests. It wouldn’t matter if the cops had handled Leyritz’s blood tests properly: the experts would still disagree about the proper model for analysis.

 

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More about Transgender Murder Statistics

I love America because, as we used to say when I was a kid, “it’s a free country.” We are free to live our lives as we choose–as long as what we choose doesn’t harm other people. We also are free to think what we wish. There are no “thought police” yet. We are free to express our opinions (within limits).

Statistics aren’t opinions, though. Statistics are the mathematical analyses of data. And data are facts. When we cite statistics to support our opinions, we should do so responsibly–making every effort to be sure the data we cite are real and the statistics based on those data are properly calculated.

In academic writing (as opposed to blogging and journalism) we are required (by peer reviewers) to cite our sources specifically and accurately. It is improper to refer to vague, general “recent studies” or “one source.” Journalists can claim to have confidential sources, I suppose, but it really doesn’t seem right to me to have confidential statistical sources.

I can’t find any “recent study” that says that “1 in 12 transgender persons is murdered.” I can find a transgender activist who has made an honest effort to collect transgender murder statistics, but even she admits that data are hard to come by because there is really no way to know how many transgender persons there are or to identify all murder victims who are transgender. A Florida woman named LeAnna Bradley and an organization called Stop Hate Now cite 321 such murders worldwide between 1970 and 2004 (34 years).

On the other hand, someone has claimed that Kay Brown, instructor for “20th Century Transgender History and Experience” at the Harvey Milk Institute in San Francisco, Washington Blade, Dec. 10, 1999, is the source of the “1 in 12” statistic. But if you Google the Brown article, you can’t find any such statistic in the article (at least I couldn’t).

Let’s think about this a minute. What is the value of inventing or inflating statistics about a very highly-emotionally-charged issue? Frankly, it fans the flames of irrationality. No one benefits from this.

 

Sloppy Trials, Frustrated Juries

Wednesday, Vinnie Politan (InSession) interviewed the foreman of the Stephan Hayes death penalty jury. He asked the foreman what he would change about the jury system, and the man replied that juries ought to be given some “rules” to go by. Politan laughed and said something to the effect that the way it’s supposed to work is that juries are free to work in any way they wish. I suppose he meant that it’s some sort of ultra-democratic process in which every juror has complete freedom. This, of course, is ridiculous.

The judge tells the jurors what to do in a set of incomprehensible instructions. The jury instructions, though, focus on the law and do not provide any guidance on the processes of selecting a foreperson or of deliberation.

As a result, from personal experience I can tell you that jury deliberations are chaotic. Some jurors take it upon themselves to impose “rules” on others; some take it upon themselves to define “the law” or redefine the law.

I would like to see the Supreme Court of each state develop a juror handbook that lays out several alternative ways of choosing a foreperson, of reading through the instructions, of reviewing the evidence, of debating the issues, of what “speculation” is and is not, and of deciding when to take votes and how to take votes.

In addition, rather than excusing jurors who have served from future jury service for a time, courts ought to recall experienced jurors for a period of time and then excuse them—perhaps forever if they wish.

Another thing the courts could do to make jury service more palatable would be to shorten trials. To do this, prosecutors should be required to present only credible, relevant evidence. Judges should be sticklers for the prosecution presenting a good prima facie case and reduce the charges where the evidence warrants it. Witnesses should be vetted by the judge before the trial begins, so that the jury isn’t sent out of the courtroom in mid-trial while experts present their credentials.

The Jim Leyritz DUI manslaughter trial is a perfect example of a sloppy trial that is sure to frustrate the jury.

According to one InSession commentator, the issue of the victim’s blood-alcohol level has been problematic in the trial only because the prosecution chose not to charge Leyritz with vehicular homicide. Apparently he would likely have been acquitted in such a trial, because the victim was over the limit. But in manslaughter cases, the victim’s condition isn’t admissible.

Does this make any sense? A lesser crime has a built-in prejudice against the defendant? The Leyritz trial is apparently another example of the prosecutor choosing offenses that disadvantage the defendant, who is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Nonetheless, through the prosecution’s incompetence, evidence of the victim’s blood-alcohol level has come into the trial—along with hints that she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. In the instructions, no doubt the judge will warn the jury to disregard this information as irrelevant. But, let’s face it, the only issue that is really contested in the case is who ran a red light, and no sane human being can disregard the evidence that the victim was impaired and could have run a red light while Leyritz entered the intersection on a yellow light.

In the Leyritz trial, the jury has been sent out of court almost as often as they’ve entered the jury box. One lengthy episode involved the prosecutor trying to admit a police officer who administered a field sobriety test as a forensic expert in interpreting the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. This should have been done before the trial began.

In the end, the Leyritz jury will listen intently to the judge’s instructions, but when they retreat into the deliberation room, they will be utterly confused. They will reach a verdict only if all but one of them are followers. The leader will determine the verdict. If two or more have minds of their own, there won’t be a verdict at all.

Jury Fed Junk Science Again

On Tuesday the jury in the Jim Leyritz DUI manslaughter trial sat through hours of junk-science testimony from the head toxicologist of Broward County, Florida. The tale of how his testimony was admitted into evidence is as bizarre as what he told the jury.

Blood Alcohol Level Calculation

If anything should be well-established forensic science by now, a juror would expect blood-alcohol analysis to be it. So jurors in the Leyritz trial are likely to believe what the toxicologist told them yesterday.

Once again, we should all be thankful we aren’t on this jury. Because I’m not a juror in the Leyritz trial I heard the legal arguments about the evidence. I know the toxicologist’s testimony is evidence only of the shoddy nature of forensic toxicology.

It seems the cops drew two blood samples from the defendant, an hour apart (3 and 4 hours after the accident). Based on the differences between the two samples, the toxicologist determined the defendant’s metabolism rate and then extrapolated what his blood-alcohol level must have been at the time of the accident: about 0.182.

However, Judge Marc Gold ruled that the second blood draw was illegal; as a result the prosecution could not ask the toxicologist about the extrapolation he made based on the second sample.

Specifically, Judge Gold asked the prosecutor whether the toxicologist had “relied exclusively on” the second sample for his opinion or whether he could render an opinion without relying on it. The prosecutor (a young woman who frankly seems clueless) said he could; he had another “calculation” he could use.

Clearly the judge expected the toxicologist to testify that the blood-alcohol level was somewhere around 0.182 based on this new calculation; but, alas, he testified that the level was about 0.196, a difference of 0.014.

Judge Gold has previously ruled in this trial that plus or minus 25% is unacceptable in statistics, at least with a sample size of 3 blood-alcohol levels (0.04, 0.06, and 0.08) In this instance, he has only two numbers to evaluate (which makes it impossible to determine what the real margin of error is)—and I don’t mean 2 blood samples, I mean 2 blood-alcohol levels (0.182 and 0.196). There’s a 0.014 difference (14 points).

In other words, there’s no way of telling how accurate or inaccurate either of the numbers is.

Junk Science

What this proves is that either the method used by toxicologists to calculate the rate at which alcohol is metabolized based on two samples is wrong or the method used to extrapolate the level of blood alcohol at a given past time based on a sample is wrong.

If so, then there needs to be substantial reform in DUI forensic toxicology.

The Judge and the Jury

It will be interesting to see how Judge Gold handles this.

It seems to me (and I am not a lawyer) that he has several issues to resolve:

  • The prosecutor did not understand what he meant by asking her if the toxicologist relied exclusively on the second sample for his opinion, and as a result she allowed the toxicologist to introduce into evidence an entirely new opinion, which the defense had never before heard.
  • The defense did not know the calculation generally used to extrapolate a prior blood-alcohol level, or they would have anticipated that the toxicologist’s new estimate would be much higher than his first estimate.
  • The toxicologist’s change in his testimony reveals the gross flaws in the whole “science” of DUI toxicology.
  • The problem is that the defense can’t cross-examine this testimony and show the flaws, because the judge (at the defense’s request) has excluded the second blood sample.

Of course, it may simply be that in the ten minutes the toxicologist was given to calculate a new estimate, he made a math error.

Hoist on their own petards! All of them.

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Leyritz Trial—More Junk Science, But a Judge Who Knows Statistics

Former Yankee, Jim Leyritz, is currently on trial in Florida for DUI manslaughter. On Wednesday the prosecution called as an expert witness a law enforcement official (Officer Buttery) who tested Leyritz’s sobriety the night of the incident.

But defense attorney David Bogenschutz submitted several decisions to the judge, which indicated other courts have also refused to admit HGN evidence, because it is as not established science.

In other words, HGN is a clue cops use to identify suspects. It isn’t evidence. It’s just a clue, a hint.

The prosecution had hoped to ask Officer Buttery about the results of a test called the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test (HGN test), which he conducted on Leyritz. The test looks for eyeball quivering, which often indicates intoxication (both drugs and alcohol).

Apparently, however, the HGN test is usually employed only to establish probable cause in advance of demanding that a suspect take a blood-alcohol test. It isn’t used as evidence of intoxication.

Outside of the jury’s hearing, Officer Buttery was asked how often he has been qualified as an expert in a circuit court. He said he never had been. He was then asked how many times judges had rejected him. The answer was hundreds of times.

Sidebar: The prosecutor in this case continues to shoot herself in the foot. First, she questioned one of her own witnesses about the victim’s sobriety, after the judge had ruled that the defense could not do so. Then, she asked the medical examiner about the blood test he conducted that showed the victim’s blood-alcohol level was 0.18, higher than Leyritz’. After that she asked the ME questions that probably hinted to the jury that the victim was thrown from the car and killed only because she was not wearing a seatbelt—another fact the judge ruled inadmissible.

Why Is HGN Junk Science?

The HGN test results are nonspecific. The HGN test is proof neither of drug use nor alcohol use. It can hint to some sort of brain problem, including a concussion (which I’d guess is frequent in car wrecks). It’s not proof of any specific level of intoxication, such as the the blood-alcohol level of the test subject.

An individual cop’s perceptions are the only “record” of the HGN test results. In other words, a cop swears that he or she saw an eyeball wiggle but has no proof that the eyeball really did wiggle. Squad car videos aren’t close ups; they can’t show the wiggle.

An HGN test doesn’t prove the subject was legally drunk.

An HGN test isn’t science; it ought to be legally junk.

Judge Gold Knows Statistics

Judge Marc Gold conducted voir dire on Buttery outside the jury’s hearing. The defense attorney tried to show that Buttery wasn’t a scientist and therefore not an expert. The prosecutor tried to show that Buttery had expertise in the HGN test, simply because he had been trained by scientists. And then she asked him whether he was an expert.

He said, “No. I’m not an expert.”

At that point, the judge pointed out to the prosecutor that the witness had said he wasn’t an expert, but he had some questions for him nonetheless. He asked the witness what the margin of error of the test was. Buttery said in his experience he had concluded some test subjects had a blood-alcohol level of 0.06 and the level had turned out to be as high as 0.08 and as low as 0.04.

Judge Gold promptly disallowed Buttery to testify as an expert. He said, “0.02 is a 25% margin of error. That’s unacceptable.” Apparently the judge has taught statistics.

Leyritz Judge Explains the Precedents—but not to the jury

Yesterday in the Jim Leyritz’ DUI manslaughter trial, Judge Marc H. Gold explained his earlier ruling that excluded evidence of the victim’s blood alcohol level. Specifically, he referred to a prior judge’s ruling that set a precedent in Florida that only a living victim’s blood-alcohol level is relevant, because a living victim can give testimony and be cross-examined as to his or her perceptions of traffic conditions.

I have to retract my criticism of Judge Gold. He did, as I said, withhold important facts from the Leyritz jury, but he was forced to do so by the prior judge’s ruling.

Precedents like this one are tyrannous, because they take the power of legislation out of the hands of the people’s representatives and put it into the hands of judges.

Dark Age Thinking

American courts are truly medieval in their workings. They’re literally the last bastion of medieval scholasticism. Wikipedia’s definition of scholasticism could easily be applied to the way judges write decisions:

“Not so much a philosophy or a theology as a method of learning, scholasticism placed a strong emphasis on dialectical reasoning to extend knowledge by inference, and to resolve contradictions. Scholastic thought is also known for rigorous conceptual analysis and the careful drawing of distinctions. In the classroom and in writing, it often takes the form of explicit disputation: a topic drawn from the tradition is broached in the form of a question, opponents’ responses are given, a counterproposal is argued and opponent’s arguments rebutted. Because of its emphasis on rigorous dialectical method, scholasticism was eventually applied to many other fields of study.

As a program, scholasticism was part of an attempt at harmonization on the part of medieval Christians thinkers: to harmonize the various “authorities” of their own tradition, and to reconcile Christian theology with classical and late antique philosophy . . . .

 

Scholastics studied their predecessors’ theological writings, analyzed them, and tried to reconcile them with their predecessors’ predecessors and with the Bible. They didn’t study nature or historical facts. They didn’t even write original theology so much as they wrote exegesis of other people’s theological writings.

That’s what American judges do, too, except that they study and analyze the law, not theology, and they try to reconcile their predecessors’ writings with common law and the Constitution as well as with other precedents.

Judges don’t study the evidence and decide whether it’s valid. They don’t look at the fingerprints, for instance, and decide whether they’re too smudged to be presented to the jury; they only look at whether the CSIs followed standard operating procedure and a proper chain of custody was maintained. They don’t examine the evidence (such as the blood-alcohol level of victim in the Leyritz accident) and then decide whether it’s relevant. They examine prior judges’ rulings about blood-alcohol level evidence of victims in earlier cases.

Judges don’t write new laws or even new rules of evidence. Judges just write opinions of other judge’s opinions.

The Jury

The Leyritz jury was abused yesterday: The prosecution asked a witness about seeing the victim drink before she got behind the wheel (after the judge had ruled the victim’s blood alcohol was not admissible by the defense). Then the prosecution asked the witness to evaluate the victim’s “state” when he last saw her. The defense was forced to object and request a sidebar, because the witness seemed about to give an uninformed opinion about the victim’s sobriety. (In the end, the witness described her as being her usual self, by which I do not believe he meant that she was always drunk; rather that she was coherent and in control.) 

At that point, the jury was ejected from the courtroom and left to sit in silence in the deliberation room, frustrated, confused.

Alcohol and Driving

Alcohol behind the wheel is the real villain in the Leyritz case. It isn’t clear yet which driver was more intoxicated than the other. It isn’t entirely clear yet which driver had the red light when the collision occurred. (Although all the evidence I’ve heard so far indicates the victim is the one who ran the red light.)

Tyranny of Precedents

If the Leyritz trial doesn’t demonstrate what’s wrong with judges relying on precedents, I don’t know what does. Because a Florida judge—a judge who may have been voted off the bench by now (we can only hope)—at some time in the past decided that a victim’s blood alcohol level can only be admitted in cases in which the victim is still alive, the jury will probably never know that the victim in this case was drunk, and far more drunk than the defendant.

In effect, this shifts the decision even to charge the defendant with a crime from the citizenry (grand jury) to the police. If the victim had been wearing seatbelts and had lived, the responding officers would have detected that she was intoxicated. They might have arrested her or both of them. They might not even have arrested Leyritz. But she died in the crash, and her intoxication wasn’t discovered until the autopsy.

The precedent (“Edwards” I think they’re calling it) is stupid. It not only prejudices defendants in manslaughter cases, it prejudices defendants in every car wreck, because victims can die of other causes before a case gets to trial.

Among the sections of the Edwards decision that Judge Gold read yesterday was a reference to the relevance of a living victim’s blood-alcohol level: the jury could take it into account when evaluating the victim’s “perceptions” of what had happened. This is stupid, too. I suppose it might make sense in a civil suit for the jury to evaluate both sides’ “perceptions,” but in a criminal trial the only issue is whether a law was broken and whether it was the defendant who broke it.

The jury is “the finder of fact”: In the Leyritz trial, the jury isn’t being given all the evidence, so they can’t possibly find the fact. If Leyritz’ lawyer is good, he’ll plant the seeds of reasonable doubt in the jury’s mind that Leyritz isn’t the one who broke the law—or at least isn’t the only one.

But why couldn’t the justice system have realized on its own that the evidence wasn’t strong enough against Leyritz to justify charging him with a crime and putting him on trial at public expense?

I’m going to have to say it again: prosecutors shouldn’t be politicians. Politicians pounce on every celebrity case, because they’re sure to get their faces on TV. Is it any coincidence that the Leyritz trial was scheduled to start just before the election this year?

Cook County—Where ghosts and citizens of foreign countries vote

This is a horror story and ought to have been posted on Halloween.

Once upon a time there was a country split in two. In one part of the country slavery formed the basis of the economy. In both parts of the country most women had only a few more rights than the slaves did.

In the fullness of time, the country was torn apart by a civil war over slavery. In the end slavery was abolished. Former slaves were granted full rights of citizenship, including the right to vote—at least if they were men. If they were women, they still couldn’t vote. It took 60 years before the white, black, and other sorts of men “gave” the right to vote to women.

In that civil war and the subsequent fight for women’s suffrage, many people died or shed blood or went to jail over the right to vote. For example, for the crime of advocating a woman’s right to vote, a young woman named Alice Paul was sent to jail. All she had done wrong was exercise her First Amendment right to express a contrarian opinion about something. In jail she continued to disagree with “the majority” by refusing to eat. So her jailors rammed a thick, rubber hose down her throat and poured food into her stomach through it. (FYI: For better or worse, Alice Paul invented hunger strikes.)

Young people, I suspect, haven’t heard these stories before. It’s as if people younger than I am—of which their are multitudes—have never heard of a time when black men and all women couldn’t vote.

Flash-forward: 2010 Cook County, IL

The bad old days are over now. Now anyone can vote as often as he or she likes in Cook County, IL, home of Chicago and of me, too. You can be dead and vote here. You can be a citizen of a foreign country and vote here.

No one cares, though, because no one thinks an individual vote is worth anything anymore. The only people who aren’t welcomed at the polls in Cook County are people who want to cast votes for the wrong people. Contrariness is illegal here:

  • If a neighborhood tends to vote contrarily, the county sheriff loads all its ballots into the back of a pickup truck and then lets them fall off before the truck reaches the county offices. Yup, that’s right, the votes are conveniently lost, and, yup, that’s my neighborhood.
  • If the county commissioner for a contrarian neighborhood like mine decides to make a stink about the lost ballots, or has the audacity to run for county board president, then a car filled with thugs drives through his neighborhood and tries to spray his house with bullets; unfortunately, the thugs are stupid and shoot up the wrong house (but oddly enough no one is ever arrested).
  • After making so much trouble, if the county commissioner has the gall to run for reelection, by a strange coincidence he’s caught tearing down his opponent’s signs, and he gets himself arrested.

Unbelievable, You Say?

On Saturday, just two days before the election in which he is running for reelection, Cook County commissioner Tony Peraica was arrested. Fox News posted his mug shot. Please take a look at it and read the story. After you’ve read the story, please return to this post, especially if you don’t live in Cook County, because the Fox story isn’t exactly perfectly clear.

Sidebar: I know Fox News is supposedly a Republican propaganda machine, and you may wonder why I’ve referred to it. Well, it’s because I was watching a football game yesterday on the local Fox broadcast channel (the only channel broadcasting the game), and right in the middle of all the expensive political advertisements, Fox inserted a full-screen graphic of the mug shot. The voice-over said, “Republican candidate for Cook County Commissioner, Tony Peraica, has been arrested for tearing down his opponent’s campaign signs.”

Here’s what seems to have happened:

The commissioner was riding in a van that had the misfortune to be driving through McCook, IL, which is in his district. McCook is an industrial area with less than 300 mainly-white residents (I’d estimate less than 100 voters), and its mayor is running against the commissioner in the coming election.

Sidebar: I don’t live in McCook, but I do live in the district. The McCook mayor has been flooding my mailbox with campaign literature accusing the commissioner of being the force behind Cook County’s outrageously high taxes (they’re so high even Chicago Mayor Daly complains about them). Every voter in my neighborhood knows this is an outright lie. In fact the commissioner at times was the only commissioner on the board to vote against tax hikes.

A patrol officer (possibly a sheriff’s deputy, possibly a “city” of McCook cop) pulled the van over for unknown reasons (apparently not a traffic violation, because the van’s driver wasn’t arrested, not even as the driver of “the getaway car”). Immediately thereafter a McCook police sergeant “showed up” to arrest the commissioner for criminal vandalism. The police, supposedly, had just received a complaint from a McCook citizen who lives over a restaurant and happened to look out of his window: only moments earlier the citizen had spotted the commissioner vandalizing some of the mayor’s personal property, i.e., political advertising signs.

Now, maybe the complaint sounds plausible to you, because “everybody knows how corrupt Cook County politicians are,” and Tony Peraica is a Cook County politician, after all. But his biography suggests he might not be as corrupt as his colleagues: Born in Croatia in 1957, he was orphaned at age 11 and immigrated to the U.S. alone at age 13 to live with relatives in Chicago. He grew up to become an attorney, who’s likely to know it’s illegal to tear down your opponent’s campaign signs.

Abuse of Power

After he got out of jail, Peraica called the incident an abuse of police power. That’s an understatement, IMHO. It’s an abuse of the office of mayor, an abuse of the power of the dominant political party in Cook County, an abuse of election law, an abuse of all kinds of power. 

What I want to know is: is there a judge in Cook County who has the integrity to throw the charges out of court? Does the county state’s attorney have the courage to indict the McCook mayor and the police involved for corruption, and does the federal attorney have the integrity to charge the scoundrels with RICO and civil rights violations?

Sidebar: Speaking of corruption in Cook County politics, how did the mayor of a town with less than 100 voters win the Democratic nomination for commissioner of a district that has at least 100,000 voters, many of whom are good Democrats? It isn’t as if McCook is a Democratic enclave in an otherwise all-Republican district.

Vote against Political “Machines”

Wake up, young people. You must vote. Millions of people have died for the right to vote–since democracy was invented in Greece more than two millennia ago. Millions.

You should care when dead people vote, even when they elect your favorite candidates, because the next time they could elect another Hitler. You should care when citizens of other countries vote here, b
ecause the next time they could elect someone who will sell our country’s interests out to another country. You don’t cast merely a single vote: with only a limited number of candidates on any ballot, your vote can’t possibly be the only vote your candidate will get. And if you really can’t find a single candidate on a ballot with an iota integrity, then you need to run for office yourself.