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This Week In Techdirt History: July 15th - 21st

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Five Years AgoThis week in 2013, as new leaks made it clear that NSA surveillance went even further than everyone thought, we got disturbing comments from NSA boss Keith Alexander about the need to "collect it all" (which also happens to be the name of our CIA card game which you can still preorder...) and from a former top agency lawyer who blamed the 9/11 attacks on civil libertarians. But the backlash grew too, with the EFF filing a massive lawsuit along with several other groups, and one congressional rep trying to strip the NSA's funding while another aimed to repeal the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act.Ten Years AgoThis week in 2008, a closer look at the Viacom/YouTube lawsuit revealed Viacom's focus on finding out what Google employees uploaded as a sneaky way to hopefully eliminate some DMCA protections. Apple launched its much expected lawsuit against Mac clone maker Psystar, and a UK law firm went big on the pre-settlement shakedown game with over 100 lawsuits against file sharers. A court ruling about bots in World of Warcraft set a dangerous copyright precedent, and we saw some amusing DRM irony when Ubisoft broke its own game then fixed it by issuing a third-party DRM cracking tool as an official patch. And, sadly, despite an earlier rejection, the EU brought up copyright extension again and voted to bump the term of performance rights up from 50 to 95 years.Fifteen Years AgoThis week in 2003, while the MPAA was fighting a bill just to spite the EFF, the RIAA was going nuts with its subpoenas to identify file sharers at a rate of about 75 per day. Two Catholic Universities quickly caved and turned students over to the RIAA, and while some studies suggested that file sharing was diminishing, there were also a lot of people passionately defending it.

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posted at: 12:18am on 22-Jul-2018
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Wondering How Suburban Express Is Doing In Lawsuit Brought By Illinois Attorney General? Really Fucking Bad!

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Back in May, we wrote about Suburban Express, the comically awful bussing company that works the University of Illinois-Champaign to Chicago circuit and is owned by Dennis Toeppen, being sued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Why it was sued by the state will require you going through the backlinks above, but can more succinctly be expressed in the following math equation:

(legal threats against a redditor for negative reviews) x 2 +(doxxing complaining customers) + (lawsuits filed against customers for complaining) - (rescinding those lawsuits) + (refiling those same lawsuits again) + (Toeppen being arrested for harassing his critics) + (filing more lawsuits) x (sending out a racist email advertisement promising that you won't see Chinese people on its busses) = well, hello there, federal court
Okay, fine, so the equation wasn't all that succinct. Still, the answer to why Madigan sued is essentially because Surburban Express likely violated all kinds of laws in doing the above. Madigan's suit alleged a dizzying array of violations of civil rights and consumer protection laws, as well as Illinois law on civil rights. Toeppen stands accused of harassment of customers for leaving the company negative reviews, arbitrary refusal of service based on not liking customers for a variety of reasons including racial reasons, and having internal and external communications, such as the advertisement that ridicules Asians and Jews, because every bigot entree basically just comes with a Jewish piece of parsley. In all, Madigan included 182 pages of exhibits backing up her accusations.So, how's it going?Well, pretty fucking bad for Toeppen and Suburban Express, it turns out. Ken White lays out a summary of what's occurred with the suit thus far.
It's not looking promising for Toeppen or Suburban Express in court. They agreed to a Temporary Restraining Order barring them from publishing the personal identifying information of customers, required them to take down the personal identifying information they already published, revise their lawsuits to redact gratuitously filed personal identifying information, and stop retaliating against customers for online reviews. Toeppen and Suburban Express agreed to have that order extended a few times, and now the AG wants to make it into a more long-term injunction. Meanwhile the attorney for Suburban Express and Toeppen wants to quit, citing strategic disputes and non-payment. Toeppen is falling back on the game-winning strategy of semi-coherent attacks on the media.
That last bit takes the form of a bizarre attack on The News Gazette. After reporting on the case, the News Gazette received a brief and vague bit of pushback directly from Toeppen as to its reporting about Toeppen's lawyer looking to exit the case. As per usual with Toeppen, the interaction was long on bombast and short on anything worthwhile.
After this article was published, Toeppen emailed The News-Gazette to criticize its reporting."Don't try to report on things you do not understand and are unwilling to research," he wrote. "Your reporting on this matter has been idiotic in the extreme."A News-Gazette email asking for clarification bounced back with an error saying the sender's email address had been rejected.
"You're wrong, but I won't explain how, and I'll block your email address right after I send this!" is about as useless an interaction as I can think of. None of that changes the News Gazette's reporting about Toeppen's attorney seeking to no longer represent Suburban Express over both strategic issues and a lack of payment from Toeppen, not to mention that Suburban Express' insurance company is asking the court to declare that it doesn't have to pay for the lawsuit, essentially because the policy doesn't cover Toeppen being an asshole.
The Hartford has denied coverage, Long said, and Manufacturers Alliance Insurance Company denied coverage and filed a lawsuit against Toeppen and Allerton Charter Coach, which operates as a contractor for Suburban Express.It's seeking a decision from the court on whether it correctly denied coverage, arguing that policies Allerton and Toeppen have exclude coverage when the damages result from intentional misconduct, as Madigan's lawsuit alleges.
Now, look, I know it might seem like I'm actively rooting against Toeppen and Suburban Express and for Madigan to at the very least make an example of them, but it only looks that way because it's absolutely true and I have no interest in pretending otherwise. The level of harassment and vitriol Toeppen has displayed, all because people don't want him to run his business as though this was Montgomery circa 1955.

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posted at: 12:18am on 21-Jul-2018
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Cop Costs Taxpayers $60,000 And One (1) Drug Bust After Lying About Almost Everything Related To The Traffic Stop

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Oh my. What fun it must have been for this officer to find out his lies were contradicted by his partner's body camera footage. Thanks to these lies, Officer Joshua Bates of the San Jose Police Department is now former officer Josh Bates, target of a federal civil rights lawsuit. But his troubles began during the traffic stop, culminating in this (first) judicial vindication of Cosme Grijalva.

Saying he was “troubled” by the testimony, Superior Court Judge Eric Geffon threw out the drug case in October against former suspect Cosme Grijalva, after the prosecution dismissed the charges. The City Council on Tuesday agreed to settle a civil-rights lawsuit filed by attorney Jaime Leaños on Gijalva’s behalf for $59,900.
No charges and a cash settlement. That's the way things break when officers lie. And lie Bates did. Several timesFirst, he trapped himself in a lie during cross examination. While seeking to obtain consent to search Grijalva's car, Bates used his phone to contact a translator to help bridge the language gap. Pushed for details on this mysterious translator -- one that had changed sexes during the course of his testimony -- Bates finally settled on calling the translator "she." Then he admitted it wasn't a department translator, but rather someone named Lilia... who just happened to be Bates' wife.
Body-camera video recorded by Bates’ partner, Ian Hawkley, who is also named in the suit, shows Bates telling his wife over the phone: “So what you’re going to do is you’re going to tell this person that I know there is methamphetamine in the car — crystal, and you are going to tell him that I’m going to get a dog who’s going to come over and is going to sniff and tear their car apart.”
Hawkley's video came as a surprise to Bates. Not a complete surprise, though. At one point in the recording, Hawkley let Bates know he was "in the red" (recording) and had been "for awhile." By that point, too much damage had been done. Bates had already called his wife to translate his threat for Grijalva and was engaged in a warrantless search of Grijalva's van without his consent. Bates did not activate his camera, violating PD policy. He also admitted to trying to get Hawkley to deactivate his body cam.Bates apparently had an ongoing aversion to complying with the Constitution and PD policies.
There is evidence suggesting this might not have been a one-time instance for Bates. According to court documents filed by Singh, the week before Bates’ encounter with Grijalva, he and another officer stopped and arrested a bicyclist on suspicion of alleged marijuana possession. Body-worn camera footage reportedly showed that Bates omitted mentioning a pat-down search in his police report on the incident.Other video from that case also shows Bates having a conversation with another officer about how to come up with probable cause to make an enforcement stop when there is nothing readily apparent.
Bates also fudged the paperwork in this case. He tried to align his testimony with his bogus police reports but got tripped up by his own faulty memory and his partner's recording of the incident. And that has netted him two lawsuits and an early exit from his law enforcement career. Bates resigned shortly after this disastrous courtroom performance. With any luck, he'll be employed by another law enforcement agency before too long. You know how it is with bad hombres like this. They get sprung on technicalities and are back on the streets (in uniform) within days or weeks of an unceremonious sacking/resignation-tendering.The only thing in this story that makes it an anomaly is the resignation. Other than that, it's par for the course. Cops lie. And the reason they do it so frequently is that they almost always get away with it. Cameras are changing that… slowly. But they're only slightly better than nothing at all at this point. The sad thing is, we'll just have to take what we can get because law enforcement agencies clearly aren't interested in upsetting the apple cart and letting all these "bad apples" roll into the nearest gutter. Change comes from within and law enforcement has proven itself highly resistant to change.

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posted at: 12:18am on 21-Jul-2018
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Miami Cops Forced To Give $20,000 Back To Person They Stole It From After Screwing Up Their Supposed Drug Bust

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The schadenfreude dripping from this case is positively delicious.

This story of the spectacularly swift rise and fall of a profitable drugs-and-guns bust comes to us via C.J. Ciarmella at Reason, who has his own particularly sumptuous line summing up the debacle.
[F]or police, what looked like a delicious nougat of a drug bust turned out to be the coconut cream of disappointment.
Let's head back to May 18, 2018, when a local media outlet breathlessly acted as law enforcement stenographers to "inform" their viewers about dangerous individuals being taken down by their fearless blue protectors.
A traffic stop by Miami-Dade Police lead to a stunning discovery this week: a car filled with a half dozen assault rifles and pistols, $20,000 in cash and more than 10 bottles with liquids that you normally need prescriptions for including promethazine with cocaine.“It’s amazing how something as simple as a traffic stop can lead us to crack a lot of cases,” said Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta. “A lot of serial killers are behind bars because of traffic stops. These traffic stops lead to so many things in the criminal world and they are never routine. We warn our officers that there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop. You never know what you are going to get.”
First off, it was "promethazine with" codeine, not "cocaine." Second, this is all speculation because the seized bottles weren't tested -- not even with a shit $2 field drug test more prone to producing false positives than a drug dog. Third, the weapons were all legal, and the person who owned them had a permit to conceal them. Fourth, the other person in the car was a stripper.Why is number four relevant? Well, it has a lot to do with this case falling apart. And that makes this sentence from CBS Miami's obsequious coverage particularly hilarious.
The Miami-Dade Police narcotics bureau is taking a close look at this case and Zabaleta said it is one that shows how risky such traffic stops can be.
The closer look isn't going to help. Because a closer look has already revealed a number of problems with this daring roadside drug/gun bust.
Miami-Dade police is on the hook for legal bills after cops illegally seized a cache of guns — and nearly $20,000 in stripper cash.The department has agreed to pay more than $3,000 to defense lawyers hired by Ras Cates, 33, and his wife, Lizmixell Batista, a 20-year-old stripper at Cheetah Gentleman's Club in Hallandale Beach.
Up at the top of the list of things that made this all fall apart under closer inspection is officers' decision to bypass the Fourth Amendment on their way to turning a moving violation (police claimed the driver cut them off when entering the road) into splashy drug/gun headlines (with bonus stripper!). That ended the prosecutor's case before it could even get started.
[B]ody-camera footage showed that an officer, while friendly with Cates, never got permission to search the trunk but instead "commanded defendant to pop the trunk," prosecutors wrote."Search of the trunk was illegal," prosecutor Johnathan Nobile said in a memo explaining why the state declined to press charges.
Then there was this, which produced an immediate and plausible explanation for the cash:
As for the money, the bills were discovered in Batista's purse. Body-camera footage obtained by the Miami Herald showed she immediately told cops about her cash-only job.
Goodbye, case. Goodbye alleged drug bust. Goodbye $20,000. Goodbye $3,000 in taxpayer funds. Goodbye self-congratulatory statements that probably would have aided the defense had this gone to trial.But wait! Convictions are never much of an obstacle to legalized theft via civil asset forfeiture, right? Normally, no. But in this case, it appears the county would like to distance itself as quickly as possible from this embarrassment. Plus, there's a really good reason someone might have a ton of cash in small, unmarked bills just laying around. The lawyer for the violated couple says it best:
“I felt that the glitter on the seized cash was compelling evidence, but apparently the police department disagreed," said defense lawyer [Jude] Faccidomo.
The judge saw enough compelling evidence to block the illegal seizure. Another stripper testified on Batista's behalf and the body cam footage apparently did the rest. In less than sixty days, this drug bust has gone from a local triumph (as seen exclusively on CBS Miami!) to the city being $3,000 poorer than it was prior to this officer deciding he could turn a traffic stop into headlines and a cash payout.

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posted at: 12:18am on 20-Jul-2018
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