Sunday, December 06, 2015

When is falsifying records a big deal? A brief primer

Just so we're clear, because sometimes it can be confusing: Let's review when falsifying records might result in serious prison time.

Cops in Houston in a ticket rigging scam get probation for falsifying information on traffic tickets which real people had to pay. A Hill County Sheriff and his subordinates who falsified training and other records also all got probation.

But a self-styled "sovereign citizen" filing phony "liens" against a judge that no one would ever conceive he might actually have to pay: That guy gets 10 years, federal.

Because, when the public are victims and police are perpetrators, it's a small-ish, excusable offense. When the victim is an Important Person, we throw the book at them.

Grits harbors little sympathy for the sovereign citizen folk but the fake liens they file are worthless and there's no chance any court at this point would take them seriously. (Some of the documents are in fact laughably funny - I used to periodically run across them back when I performed opposition research.) These fake liens might merit some sort of criminal-justice response - or you could create a mechanism to administratively ban people who engage in malicious filings - but it's hardly worth 10 years in prison for the equivalent of leaving a bag of flaming poo on the porch and ringing the doorbell.

By contrast, Grits considers it much more serious business when public servants falsify information on traffic tickets - which are a formal accusation of criminal conduct, even if only a Class C misdemeanor - or when police training records are faked.

No one will ever make that judge pay a phony debt, but someone could be falsely accused when a cop lies on a ticket, or faked training records could allow an insufficiently trained officer out in the field. The consequences from those crimes are much greater, even if the punishment is much less.


Anonymous said...

Surely you're aware of the recent shenanigans in Smith County where Tyler PD pulled out all the stops to prosecute the opponent of the County Judge in the last election alleging that he told a guy to steal campaign signs. After all of their efforts, the result was a mistrial due to a hung jury. Yet, a while back when the same County Judge was caught spying on and filming a young woman through her bedroom window, it was swept under the rug. The powerful get away with committing crimes yet, when they accuse someone of something really trivial, the police go all out to prosecute the alleged perp. Interestingly, no charges were ever filed against the guy who actually stole the signs.

Anonymous said...

This is Smith County the most corrupt kangaroo justice system in the U.S. Isis would better serve Smith county than Bingham, Skeen, Clarks and their pagan houses of worship.

Anonymous said...

Do you mean like...whenever the SWIFS Crime Lab Management performs an internal audit of their own crime lab, there are "No discrepancies of non-compliance reported". Yet, every time there is an external audit (by non-SWIFS personnel), there is always a number of accreditation violations found?

Or, do you mean like...when SWIFS Crime Lab Supervisor changes the results of an analyst's proficiency test so that the analyst gets the correct answer, and instead blames the manufacturer of the test for supplying the lab with a faulty test with incorrect answers (without ever contacting the manufacturer to determine the root cause analysis of the faulty result, or searching her own lab for contamination which lead to the erroneous result)?

Or, do you mean like...when the SWIFS Crime Lab Chief of Physical Evidence fails to take prompt and thorough corrective action pertaining to a rampant, uncontrollable blood contamination within his lab. And instead backdates a CAR form (corrective action request form) 16 months after the discovery in the lab (thereby successfully hiding the blood contamination for 16 months from Criminal Defense Attorneys who are wondering how blood got onto the evidence that should have excluded their client as the perpetrator)?

Or, do you mean like...when SWIFS Crime Lab Supervisors grow marijuana plants inside the crime lab using marijuana seeds that were submitted as evidence, and their actions are not seen as destruction of evidence or illegal, but rather "poor judgement"?

Ugh. This could go on all day...


Joshua Cottle said...

I'm interested, Grits:

Do you honestly believe anyone cares about holding public officials responsible for evildoing? Like...that there is a "process" that "works" and the public should "wait and see" or "vote" for the implementation of more bureaucrats to supervise fellow bureaucrats?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ Joshua, re: "Do you honestly believe anyone cares about holding public officials responsible for evildoing?" Yes, not everyone, but not no one, either. As for the rest, I don't recall suggesting "wait and see" or that voting will solve all ills, so I don't feel the need to defend positions I haven't taken.

Anonymous said...

Or do you mean like...when the Texas Forensic Science Commission lists a submitted complaint as "NFA" (no further action) in their 2015 Annual Report (released Dec. 1) but fails to write a report (in accordance with 38.01 requirements) for the public describing WHY "no further action" was declared?

Or do you mean like...when the TFSC alters their Complaint Assignment Table in 2015 to remove complaints that were submitted in the past such that the public (and Criminal Defense Attorneys) don't know about the complaints (cough...SWIFS)? Is it only coincidental that TFSC member Dr. Jeffery Barnard is the Crime Lab Director for SWIFS?

Are we talking incompetence or criminal?


Joshua Cottle said...

Thanks for the reply, Grits. Accountability seems to derive from enacted laws and causes of action that can implement public-minded changes - the press seems to prefer to report on violations of clear laws rather than murky, administrative grey-area "misreads."

Not trying to get you to defend positions you didn't adopt in the post, just curious as to your thoughts on the proper route to get crim-j reforms. A lot of the policy guys focus on legislation as opposed to other avenues, and you are steeped in this world of reform and policy talk, so it'd be nice to know what you think is a good route for change.

Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Grits and Cottle-

How successful is the Sunset Commission in Texas? Is this an agency that could use more community input regarding those Texas agencies that are inept or eschew accountability? Or is this, too, a Texas Agency in need of its own sunset?