Detroit cop accused of robbery maintains his innocence

Detroit — Two suspended members of a disbanded Detroit Police Department drug unit were released on $10,000 unsecured bond Thursday after being indicted and accused of robbing and extorting people while on duty.

Lt. David “Hater” Hansberry and Officer Bryan “Bullet” Watson were arraigned in federal court on charges that include robbery conspiracy. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in federal prison.

The indictments come almost three months after another officer under investigation in the case, Detective James Napier, 35, of the 12th Precinct, died of a self-inflicted gun shot. The charges also come five months after Hansberry, 34, and Watson, 46, were suspended for alleged criminal wrongdoing.

“Officers who violate the law cannot be tolerated because effective law enforcement requires public trust,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement Thursday after the indictment was unsealed.

A third man associated with Hansberry, Kevlin Brown, also was charged in the case and accused robbing and extorting a victim in January 2012.

Lawyers for Hansberry and Watson did not return calls seeking comment early Thursday.

Hansberry and Watson sat next to each other in federal court, hunched over while reading copies of the eight-count indictment. Hansberry appeared animated, arching his eyebrows and smirking while reading portions of the criminal case and slowly shaking his head.

While free on bond, Hansberry and Watson are barred from possessing firearms.

The indicted officers are suspended without pay as the department looks to restore public trust eroded by the accusations, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said at a brief press conference Thursday.

“The vast majority of the men and women in the Detroit Police Department are honest and hardworking. They honor the badges they wear and the oath they took to protect the citizens of this city,” he said. “But criminal allegations of this magnitude tend to affect the erosion of public trust and the tarnishing our badges.”

Craig called the allegations “troubling” and stressed they should not reflect upon the rest of the department.

“It does not suggest that everybody assigned to the former narcotics unit was somehow involved in illegal narcotics activity,” he said. “We should remember allegations of criminal conduct by a few should never paint a picture that the entire police department is corrupt.”

Hansberry, a 16-year veteran, and Watson, a 22-year veteran, were suspended with pay in October along with multiple other officers from the former narcotics unit, Craig said.

“That’s been a consistent process that I’ve adhered to,” Craig said. “If there are criminal allegations and it moves into a charging situation then the status changes to no pay.”

Craig said he did not know how many other officers remain on suspension. He declined to comment on if the department expects charges to be brought against those individuals.

Craig disbanded the Narcotics Section in July because of what he said were systemic problems uncovered during an Internal Affairs investigation that began in May, including how drugs and evidence were handled.

An internal probe started last year is ongoing, Craig previously told The News, and is separate from the federal investigation. The internal probe stems from accusations of wrongdoing by Lt. Chuck Flanagan, which is also an ongoing internal affairs probe. The federal investigation started before Flanagan took over the drug unit.

Since then, the department has launched a new Major Violators Unit with more oversight and limits on time officers spend serving in the unit, Craig said.

“The narcotics units and the vice units of today have a limited tenure, or limited duration of assignment of three to five years,” he said. “By doing that it certainly …eliminates stagnation.”

According to the indictment, Hansberry and Watson carried out traffic stops and fake arrests before stealing drugs, money and property.

The alleged conspiracy started in June 2010, ran through October and involved Hansberry and Watson also arranging drug deals and then stealing money, drugs and property, prosecutors alleged.

They “would also identify themselves as law enforcement officers performing official law enforcement duties in order to coerce their victims into complying with their demands and to encourage their victims to flee, leaving behind their controlled substances, money or personal property,” prosecutors alleged in the indictment.

Bernard Cybulski, vice president of the Detroit Police Officers Association, said: “Just because they’re indicted doesn’t mean they’re guilty. They should be given their day in court.”

Instead of turning over the money, drugs and property to the Detroit Police Department, Hansberry and Watson sold the drugs — sometimes through informants — and split the money, the Justice Department alleged.

“I can only imagine the number of people that have been victimized by this crew,” Southfield defense lawyer Neil Rockind said.

He defended a Detroit man in 2013 charged in a drug case investigated by Hansberry, Watson and Napier.

The police lied to obtain a search warrant and lied about finding cocaine during a raid at a home owned by the man’s mother, Rockind said.

“Watson testified defiantly that he was telling the truth,” he said. “And Hansberry attempted to suggest his integrity was beyond reproach.”

Rockind’s client was acquitted in Wayne County Circuit Court in December 2013 after a jury trial.

“My experiences with these officers was very negative,” Rockind said. “These officers are entitled to their day in court and their lawyers will say (Hansberry and Watson) are beyond reproach. They’re going to witness the awesome power of the government that they were a part of. They’re going to see federal agents and prosecutors being given the benefit of the doubt.”

via Detroit News

Parents: If your child gets in trouble at school, DO NOT LET THEM BE INTERVIEWED BY ANYONE

Don’t let them be interviewed with you present, and especially not by themselves.

NO INTERVIEWS. Not by faculty, not by administration, and not by the police.

Your children, though they may be minors, have the SAME RIGHTS as any other person accused of doing something wrong: They have the right to remain silent and they have the right to a lawyer. Those rights exist for a reason! They exist to protect you and your children from improper interrogation techniques, from false accusations, and from those that would seek to do harm to your family.

GET A LAWYER. It doesn’t matter whether or not your child is guilty or innocent of the accusations. Neither you, nor your child can talk your way out of things. A lawyer can protect your child and his or her rights.

Don’t hesitate to contact our office if you need help or have any questions. The number is 248-208-3800.

Jolly Ranchers, Sage and Breath Mints

A closer look at a favorite (and unreliable) law-enforcement tool: drug field tests.

When a Tampa motorist was searched by a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s patrol last July, deputies found a wad of brown goo in his wallet. Police popped the substance into a bag – a field drug test called a NARK II, used by law enforcement across the country — gave it a shake, and watched it turn purple, indicating a positive result for methamphetamine.

The motorist, a military officer, said later it was Jamaican Stone, an herbal “male-enhancement” product, but by then he had been arrested and booked in jail. He bonded himself out, and eventually the state’s crime lab found the substance negative for meth. Prosecutors dropped the charges. (His lawyer declined to give his name. His case was first reported by Gloria Gomez for the Tampa Fox TV affiliate.)

It was hardly the first time a field test yielded a false positive — and a wrongful arrest. Sage has been mistaken for marijuana; motor oil for heroin;jolly ranchers for meth; and breath mints for crack. In February, a Minnesota man spent months in jail after his vitamin powder tested positive for amphetamines.

Soon after the arrest in Tampa, a Hillsborough police lieutenant conducted his own experiment on the NARK II tests, which cost between $15 and $20 for a box of ten. He found that just opening the test bag to the air produced the same shade of purple as exposure to methamphetamine, according to an internal memo. In February, the Hillsborough sheriff’s department announced it had switched to a different field test, made by the same company, which tests for a wider variety of illegal drugs. A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s department declined interview requests.

In 2009, researchers sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates legalization of the drug, staged a demonstration of some of the most widely used field tests, all of which rely on similar chemical reactions. “This is just air,” said one presenter, waving an open test as it turned orange, indicating a positive result. The researchers claimed that out of 42 non-marijuana substances placed in the field tests, 70 percent tested positive.

Jeremy Morris, a forensic scientist and president of the Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists, estimated that false-positives are far less common, occurring in about five percent of cases. “For the most part, it is what the officer thinks it is,” Morris said.

And according to Bob Bushman, President of the Minnesota State Association of Narcotics Investigators, police rarely rely entirely on field tests. Police, who are often trained to use the tests by the companies that produce them, factor in other signs, such as packaging or behavior of the subject.

Bushman added that substances are, in his experience, always double-checked in a lab. “I’m not aware of any place where they follow through with a prosecution without a lab analysis.”

Anthony Rickman, the lawyer for the Tampa motorist, disagrees. “It depends on your definition of prosecution. The moment you walk into criminal court, you’re being prosecuted.” Rickman said lab tests aren’t performed unless the charges are contested. That was also the policy in Travis County, Texas, until 2013, when the discovery of a dozen false-positives led District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to stop accepting plea bargains on low-level possession cases until after the lab results are in.

And while the Tampa motorist was eventually vindicated by the state’s crime lab, that occurred months after his arrest. Meanwhile, he is convinced the criminal charge hanging over him caused him to be passed up for a promotion at work.

Even in cases where an officer suspects that the test result might be faulty, those suspicions might not be enough to override a positive result on a field test. John Wesley Hall, a criminal defense attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas, described a recent case where police found a plastic bag containing a pound of dishwashing soap under his client’s sink. It tested positive for meth, but one officer had his doubts: “He was saying to the other officers, ‘Look, I know it tested positive for meth, but that’s soap.’” Police still charged the man with possession of meth, though a lab test eventually cleared him.

“As long as we use cheap tests,” Hall said, “there’s going to be false positives.”

via  The Marshall Project

Noted criminal defense attorney opposes Michigan legislature’s move to include THC limits in intoxicated driving cases for Medical Marijuana Patients

Push to change operating while intoxicated standards needs more scientific oversight

Media Contact: Barbara Fornasiero, EAFocus Communications, cell: 248.260.8466, barbara@eafocus.com

Southfield, Mich. — March 23, 2015 — Neil Rockind, founder of Southfield-based criminal defense law firm, Rockind Law, voiced his opposition to attempts by the Michigan legislature to amend the Operating While Intoxicated statute via House Bill 4357 to set a “per se” limit for medical marijuana patients, thereby making the main chemical in marijuana, Tetrahydrocannabinal (THC), equivalent to alcohol when determining intoxication under the Michigan Vehicle Code.  (For unregistered and non-cardholder patients, zero tolerance is the rule.)

Prior to this proposed amendment, a medical marijuana patient could not be accused or convicted of Operating While Intoxicated solely due to the amount of THC in his/her body.  Rather, the government needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was intoxicated or impaired.  The amendment includes the addition of a 5 nanonograms of THC per 1 milliliter of blood as the standard for determining intoxication.

“There is no scientific basis for selecting the 5 nanogram cut-off  limit for THC when determining intoxication,” Rockind said.  “Unlike the blood alcohol levels of .08 and .10 outlined for drunk driving, which are ostensibly based in science, using 5 nanograms of THC as a cut-off point is purely subjective.  There is no definitive scientific evidence equating THC levels with alcohol levels in intoxicated driving.”

To support his position, Rockind refers to a large body of research that explores the impact of marijuana on psychomotor skills and actual driving performance and includes driving simulator studies, on-road performance studies, crash culpability studies, and summary reviews of the existing evidence. Also, a recent article in the Washington Post highlighting a new study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that, “For marijuana, and for a number of other legal and illegal drugs including antidepressants, painkillers, stimulants and the like, there is no statistically significant change in the risk of a crash associated with using that drug prior to driving.” The entire article can be read here.

“The findings of the extensive research in the area are fairly consistent: Marijuana has a measurable yet relatively mild effect on psychomotor skills and does not appear to play a significant role in vehicle crashes, particularly when compared to alcohol,” Rockind said.

Rockind sees the amendment to the operating while intoxicated guidelines as another attempt by the Michigan legislature to confuse the public into believing it can legislate away crime and accidents.

“Any push to change operating while intoxicated standards needs more scientific oversight,” Rockind said. “In its quest to appear as crime preventers, the Michigan legislature continues its crusade of creating laws and establishing arbitrary guidelines that encroach on the civil liberties of state residents.”

A copy of House Bill 4357 can be viewed here.

Rockind holds a Juris Doctorate degree from Wayne State University School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. He is active in a variety of professional organizations, including membership in the State Bar of Michigan, Criminal Defense section of the State Bar of Michigan, Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, among others.  In February 2014 he was named among Michigan’s 30 Leaders in the Law by legal trade publication Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

About Rockind Law

Rockind Law is a Southfield, Michigan-based criminal defense law firm aggressively pursuing justice for individuals facing criminal charges, including white collar crime, drunk driving, narcotics and assault.  To find out more about the firm’s services and resources, visit http://www.rockindlaw.com/.

NOT GUILTY OF FELONY FIREARM!!!

Neil Rockind just finished up a trial in which our client was charged with multiple weapon offenses, including Felony Firearm, and was looking at several years in prison.

THE JURY JUST RETURNED A VERDICT OF NOT GUILTY AFTER TWO HOURS OF DELIBERATIONS!

AMAZING RESULT NEIL!!!

Defense attorney attends forensics chromatography seminar to help provide scientific clarity in DUI and other criminal cases

Southfield, Mich. — Feb. 3, 2015 — Colin Daniels, a defense attorney with Southfield-based Rockind Law, participated in a scientific forensics course held by the American Chemical Society in Chicago in late January.

The hands-on class, the majority of which was conducted in a lab with participants working with their own Gas Chromatograph – Flame Ionization Detector machines, educated attorneys on the use of blood testing instruments and the science behind gas chromatography, a method used to separate organic and inorganic compounds in both liquid and gas. After separating the compounds, police, FBI and other authorities can then analyze the chemicals, such as drugs or alcohol, that are present in breath, blood and urine.

Only about 250 attorneys in the U.S. have completed the coursework that allows lawyers to explain the science of gas chromatography in DUI ethanol-based cases. Completion of the course allows attorneys to test blood from the lab and verify or challenge the court’s experts. Rockind Law founder Neil Rockind attended the seminar in Oct. 2014.

“After attending the chromatography seminar this fall, I found the information to be invaluable and knew Colin would also benefit by attending,” Rockind said. “We are constantly pursuing avenues that enhance our legal capabilities and expand our knowledge base to provide our clients the best defense possible.”

Trial attorneys attending the class also gained critical advocacy skills to help judges and juries discern which evidential science is valid and what professed science should be rejected. Learn more about chromatography here.

About Rockind Law

Rockind Law is a Southfield, Michigan-based criminal defense law firm aggressively pursuing justice for individuals facing criminal charges, including white collar crime, drunk driving, narcotics and assault.  To find out more about the firm’s services and resources, visit http://www.rockindlaw.com/.