Jul 21 2013

What does it take for a state trooper to be fired?

Dr. Q

What does it for a state trooper to be fired?

Apparently having eight citizen complaints — most with similar details — isn’t enough. After making a public records request to the state police, the Telegram & Gazette has learned that a state trooper who is currently on unpaid suspension and facing trial for exposing himself to an 18-year-old woman had seven prior complaints.

The local state trooper facing criminal charges for allegedly exposing himself to a teenage relative of his wife and sending the girl sexually explicit text messages also has been the subject of a number of citizen complaints to state police about his temper, records show.

Trooper Jason M. Willard of Auburn is charged with three counts of indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or older and two counts of open and gross lewdness.

He is seeking to have the charges thrown out, claiming that his estranged wife put the girl up to making the allegations to gain advantage in a custody battle.

The incidents allegedly occurred nearly four years ago while the young woman, then 18 years old, was living with the Willards in Auburn for several months.

Trooper Willard, who has been suspended without pay since his indictment in September, has served as a state trooper since 2002. He was last assigned to the Sturbridge Barracks.

State police internal affairs files obtained by the Telegram & Gazette under the state Public Records Law show that five drivers pulled over by Trooper Willard in different parts of the state at different times during his decade in uniform described him as a bully whose demeanor was angry and aggressive during traffic stops.

A neighbor in Auburn made a similar allegation about his demeanor after an encounter with Trooper Willard outside his home. A seventh complaint involved money that allegedly disappeared from a gun case that had been confiscated.

State police internal affairs investigators backed the trooper in all seven of the civilian complaints, finding that the allegations were either “not sustained,” “unfounded,” or that Trooper Willard was “exonerated.”

An eighth internal affairs investigation into the allegations he exposed himself and made sexual comments to his wife’s young relative remains open and therefore was not turned over to the newspaper.

You can read the entire story here for more details about the complaints.

The fact that not one of these complaints was sustained even though most of them had similar details suggests that the state police may not be performing serious investigations. I can’t say I’m surprised though. Why should we expect anything else when the state police are allowed to investigate themselves?

I would actually not recommend making a complaint against a police officer (local, state, or federal) without first consulting a lawyer who is familiar with the department. Not only is there a good chance your complaint won’t do you any good, it may actually hurt your cause. Some police departments do take complaints seriously, but others will interpret a complaint as a potential lawsuit and go into cover-up mode to minimize the damage they face.

Also, remember to use a camera to record the police if you are stopped. These days, when the majority of people carry smart phones, most of us have no excuse to not record the police. In all of these complaints, it was the word of the complainant (and in some cases, an acquaintance of the complainant) against the word of the officer. If any of the complainants had caught the officer berating them, threatening them, or unlawfully searching their vehicle on camera, there’s a much better chance that he would’ve faced discipline for his actions.

And make sure you know what your rights are so you don’t do anything you’ll regret if you get stopped.

Correction (7/24/2013): When I first wrote this post, I said that Willard was being paid while he was suspended. The post has been corrected to say that he is not being paid.

Jul 1 2013

SJC throws out gun and drug evidence from illegal search

Dr. Q

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in a recent ruling that Worcester police conducted an illegal search during a traffic stop in 2008. The Court tossed the gun and drug evidence found by police during the search, forcing prosecutors to drop the case (Source: Telegram & Gazette).

Here’s how the Telegram summarized the case:

Officer George Lavin, a five-year member of the police department, was on routine patrol at Hooper and Catharine streets about 10:30 p.m. May 18, 2008, when he saw a gray Hyundai Sonata run a stop sign at the intersection. Officer Lavin turned on his cruiser’s blue lights and the Hyundai stopped less than a block away in the parking lot of an apartment building at 42 Catharine St.

Officer Lavin got out of his cruiser, approached the vehicle and called for backup just before seeing two male passengers get out of the Sonata and walk toward the apartment building. Officer Lavin ordered both men to get back into the car. One began running toward the building while the other hastened his pace.

Fabian Perkins of 26 Ethan Allen St., the driver of the car, remained seated and identified himself to Officer Lavin. The officer ordered Mr. Perkins out of the car, pat-frisked him and asked him for identification and the names of the passengers who fled.

Mr. Perkins responded that he did not know the men. He produced a learner’s permit, which required him to have a licensed driver with him while behind the wheel of a car. Officer Lavin again asked Mr. Perkins to identify the occupants of the vehicle. He did not respond and was handcuffed.

Officer Timothy Segur, a three-year member of the police department, arrived at the scene, spoke to Officer Lavin and then entered 42 Catharine St. to look for the two passengers. He checked the first-floor common areas and hallway and immediately returned to the stopped vehicle.

Officer Segur asked Officer Lavin if he had searched the car, and Officer Lavin said he had not. One door of the Sonata was ajar and the interior light was on.

Judge Page found that the officers did not see any contraband in plain view, but conducted a search of the vehicle that yielded a firearm, marijuana and a substance believed to be crack cocaine.

At least a half-dozen additional officers arrived at the scene and entered 42 Catharine St. in search of the two men who had been in the car with Mr. Perkins.

One of them, Tareek Hendricks, now 31, of 144 Stafford St., was found in one of the apartments and was arrested. The second man, identified as Elijah Cherry, now 28, of 20 Svea St., was caught while leaving the building through a back door.

All three men were charged with firearm and drug offenses, and their cases were pending in Worcester Superior Court when Judge Page issued her ruling.

Lawyers for the three suspects argued at the hearing on the motion to suppress that the actions of the police, including the initial stop of the car, the pursuit of Mr. Hendricks and Mr. Cherry, the pat-frisk of Mr. Perkins, the warrantless search of the car and the entry into the apartment were unlawful and violated their constitutional rights.

The prosecution countered that the firearm was in plain view in the car and provided probable cause for the search of the vehicle, that the search of the vehicle was permissible as a search incident to Mr. Perkins’ arrest and that Mr. Hendricks and Mr. Cherry lacked standing to challenge the search because they abandoned the contents of the car, as well as any reasonable expectation of privacy, when they left the scene.

“This court’s finding that the officers did not see the gun in plain view, and that they only located the contraband after conducting a more intrusive search, renders the search illegal,” Judge Page wrote.

“While Lavin was justified in stopping the car for a traffic violation, and his detention of Perkins to determine whether he was properly operating the vehicle was reasonable, the Commonwealth has failed to establish that the officers needed to search the car to ensure their safety or that any other applicable exception to the warrant requirement would justify the search of the car. Therefore, the gun, cocaine and marijuana must be suppressed,” she wrote.

Prosecutors appealed the ruling to the state Appeals Court and the SJC took jurisdiction of the case on its own initiative.

“Because there was no error in the judge’s finding that the firearm was not in plain view, because the search cannot be justified as a search incident to arrest, and because the Commonwealth failed to establish that Hendricks and Cherry abandoned the contents of the automobile when they left the scene, we agree with the judge’s conclusion that the search of the automobile constituted an unlawful warrantless search requiring suppression of the evidence seized,” Judge Barbara A. Lenk wrote for the SJC.

The SJC focused on the narrow question of whether Judge Page properly suppressed the evidence found in the Sonata and did not address the propriety of Officer Lavin’s order to Mr. Hendricks and Mr. Cherry to return to the car. The court said in a footnote to its decision that it would “leave this issue for another day.”

Jun 8 2013

Excellent news: Massachusetts’ highest court upholds probable cause, judicial oversight standard for extended GPS tracking

Dr. Q

By Kade Crockford, Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project

This article was originally posted at the Privacy Matters blog on June 7, 2013. It has been reprinted with permission.

It’s been quite a week, what with the Guardian newspaper’s Glenn Greenwald publishing a leaked NSA surveillance order to Verizon, and then last night’s revelations about how the military has directly tapped in to the servers of major internet companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. What began as a major controversy about phone and internet records has exploded into the biggest surveillance story of a decade, littered with scores of privacy-bombshells.

Particularly in light of these disclosures, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Commonwealth v. Rousseau decision, released this week, deserves wide discussion.

Quite simply, Rousseau cuts to the heart of the question raised by the NSA surveillance scandal: does the government need to have any individualized suspicion to extensively spy on us, or have we done away with that most basic tenet of our constitutional protections against unreasonable government searches?

Thankfully, the court answered the right way.

In short, the state’s highest court ruled that the government must have probable cause and provide judicial oversight before tracking us for extended periods of time using GPS devices. If it were up to the Massachusetts SJC, the NSA would be barred from doing lots of what we have just confirmed it has been doing for years.

Rousseau stems from the 2007 convictions of two Massachusetts men, John Rousseau and Michael Dreslinski, on counts of arson and other crimes. State police officers had used information gleaned from a GPS tracking device placed on Dreslinski’s car as evidence that helped convict both men.

Both men appealed the convictions, arguing, the court writes, “that the warrant which authorized the State police to attach the GPS device to Dreslinski’s car for 31 days was not supported by probable cause and therefore violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and art. 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.”

In response, the government argued Rousseau had no right to challenge the constitutionality of the GPS tracking that helped convict him, because he was neither the driver nor the owner of the car the police were tracking.

That doesn’t make sense. Thankfully, the SJC doesn’t think so, either:

Rousseau, as a passenger in the vehicle, also has standing because he had a reasonable expectation that his movements would not be subjected to extended electronic surveillance by the government through use of GPS monitoring.

That’s great news. But it gets even better.

Furthermore, the court ruled, “under art. 14, a person may reasonably expect not to be subjected to extended GPS electronic surveillance by the government, targeted at his movements, without judicial oversight and a showing of probable cause.” (Article 14 is essentially the Massachusetts version of the Fourth Amendment; you can read it here.)

Remember three key phrases from that sentence: “extended GPS surveillance,” “judicial oversight,” and “probable cause.” The court ruled that, under the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, if the government wants to watch our movements for an extended period of time (which at the very least is 31 days), then it needs to go to a Judge and prove that it is has probable cause to do so.

As ACLU of Massachusetts’ Legal Director, Matthew Segal, who co-wrote an amicus brief in Rousseau, says:

Today’s ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court is a huge victory for anyone who does not want the government to track their movements. Relying on the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, the court held that the police generally cannot track someone using GPS surveillance unless they secure “judicial oversight” and make “a showing of probable cause.” Although the case itself concerned a passenger in a truck he did not own, the SJC’s ruling was not at all limited to that circumstance. Instead, the SJC made clear that its ruling applies to essentially everyone in Massachusetts.

Not only does the ruling apply to everyone in Massachusetts. The requirement to obtain “judicial oversight” and a “showing of probable cause” before the government can use GPS surveillance to track us for an extended period of time arguably extends well beyond the placement of a GPS tracking device onto a vehicle.

As an ACLU study showed, law enforcement nationwide regularly subpoena detailed information about our travel patterns from our cell phone companies. Our cell phones, too, use GPS to track us. As the ACLU writes, “While virtually all of the roughly 250 police departments that responded to our request said they track cell phones, only a tiny minority reported consistently obtaining a warrant and demonstrating probable cause to do so.”

And that location tracking, sometimes using precise GPS coordinates communicated by our cell phones, is extensive – even apart from the automated-datamart vacuum operations at NSA we are discussing this week. The ACLU reports: “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Sprint keeps location tracking records for 18-24 months, and AT&T holds onto them “since July 2008,” suggesting they are stored indefinitely.”

Two years and indefinitely are certainly longer than the 31 days the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court found was “extended” in the Rousseau case.

But that’s not all.

Automatic license plate readers are increasingly compiling detailed records of everywhere motorists drive. Law enforcement at every level and even private corporations are hoarding this information in regional and even national databases. As the plate readers become cheaper and eventually ubiquitous, hanging from every intersection and attached to every police car, it’s a very real possibility that police will be able to track our every motoring move, going back months, years or even decades. In such cases, officers don’t even need to subpoena anyone for records, because they already have them.

That’s also the case with cell phone sniffing gear like the Stingray, which allows law enforcement to independently track our devices, cutting out the telecoms entirely.

As Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a concurring opinion in the landmark Fourth Amendment case US v Jones,

GPS monitoring generates a precise, comprehensive record of a person’s public movements that reflects a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious, and sexual associations. The Government can store such records and efficiently mine them for information years into the future. And because GPS monitoring is cheap in comparison to conventional surveillance techniques and, by design, proceeds surreptitiously, it evades the ordinary checks that constrain abusive law enforcement practices: “limited police resources and community hostility.”

Sotomayor’s concerns pertain equally to location tracking by way of mobile phone, physical GPS device, and stored automatic license plate reader data.

Citing Jones, the Rousseau decision in Massachusetts makes clear that law enforcement in this state cannot use GPS to track us for an “extended” period of time unless they show probable cause to a judge. That ruling applies to GPS tracking in cell phones. It arguably also applies to detailed license plate reader databases, some of which already contain hundreds of millions of records showing where we drive, and when. These databases are only set to grow, and the vast majority of states have set no limits on how long police departments are allowed to store our location information.

Right now you may be thinking: ‘Who cares about whether or not the SJC said the cops need probable cause to spy on me like this? The NSA is already doing it!’ This is obviously a serious concern and we need to stop it. But the Rousseau decision still matters for people in Massachusetts, in a very big way.

That’s because, even if the Boston or Massachusetts State Police got access to NSA records showing where you went or for how long, they most likely wouldn’t be able to use that evidence against you in a Massachusetts court. Furthermore, the NSA probably isn’t in the business of sharing its preciously hoarded information with state and local police officers, except in highly extraordinary circumstances.

Even more importantly, many of us live in communities wherein we know people who work at the local prosecutors’ office, or are police officers. Local law enforcement is much more integrated into our lives than is the secretive, shadowy NSA. Therefore suspicionless, unaccountable surveillance at the local level poses unique threats to the sanctity of our lives, our dignity as private persons, and even our physical safety.

At the federal level, we need to repeal the FISA Amendments Act so that the military cannot routinely collect and store our private communications, associations and habits. But state law is incredibly important, as well.

That’s why we here in Massachusetts are working to pass legislation to deal with both warrantless cell phone tracking and unregulated license plate tracking, which we hope will become law sooner rather than later. (Join us and add your voice.)

Legislatures have a way of moving very slowly, however, and so in the meantime it’s heartening to see that our state’s highest court agrees on a basic principle, the violation of which underlies the entire NSA and PRISM scandal: if the police want to track our movements over an “extended” period of time, they need to have individualized suspicion and probable cause, and show that evidence to a judge.

It sounds almost quaint this week, but that’s how we do in Massachusetts.

Jun 2 2013

Videos from the International Day of Privacy protest

Dr. Q
BRIC (Photo by KT)

BRIC (Photo by KT)

Yesterday, a group of activists held a small “International Day of Privacy” protest outside the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), the state’s “fusion center” in Boston. If you’re not familiar with the BRIC, I recommend checking out Chris Faraone’s recent piece in Dig Boston which offers some background.

The protest was organized by KT (the first speaker in the first video below), the same person who uploaded the videos of herself being harassed by court employees and police while protesting in Salem. Luckily, there was no police harassment at this protest. KT told me (via Twitter) that the police “stayed in their nice climate controlled fusion center.”

One of the attendees uploaded some videos of other protesters giving speeches. I’ve embedded them below so you know check them out:

May 20 2013

Massachusetts police to acquire more drug and bomb sniffing dogs

Dr. Q

Throughout the United States, police use so-called “detection dogs” to sniff out illegal drugs and explosives. In the case of Illinois v. Caballes, the Supreme Court ruled that the use of these dogs by police does not constitute a search for legal purposes. What this means is that police can have one of their dogs sniff you or your vehicle without first obtaining a warrant. Courts also typically treat a “signal” from a police dog as probable cause to conduct a search. This means that police can walk up to you in public or, if you are driving, stop you for a minor traffic violation (e.g., speeding), have a dog sniff you and your car, and, if the dog “signals,” they can conduct a thorough search of you, your car, and your personal belongings.

Yesterday, The MetroWest Daily News published a story by Jessica Trufant about how, in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, many police departments in the region are expressing interest in acquiring police dogs (Jessica Trufant, “Police dogs in big demand in MetroWest forces,” The MetroWest Daily News, May 19, 2013). As is common in the mainstream press, this shoddy article uncritically presents misleading and outright false claims by government officials as fact.

The article is based almost entirely on the author’s interviews with Ken Ballinger, assistant deputy superintendent of the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department and leader of its K9 unit, and Dwane Foisy, president of the Massachusetts Police Work Dog Association, both of whom stress the importance and legitimacy of police dogs and assure us that these dogs are well-trained:

Many of [Ken Ballinger’s] trainees, including Ashland Officer Chris Alberini and his German shepherd partner Dax, helped in the manhunt following the Boston bombings on April 15, which again has heightened awareness of the value and effectiveness of dogs in assisting officers both during and after such crises.

A second-generation K9 handler, Ballinger 20 years ago never imagined that dogs in 2013 would be sniffing out contraband cell phones in prisons, or wearing cameras to stake out buildings before raids.

But Ballinger has seen a drastic increase in the use of dogs and the sophistication of training, as case law and public opinion have shifted to treat K9s as legitimate police tools.

He expects a greater presence of K9s before and during large public events, despite some pushback from privacy rights advocates who may consider the use of dogs unlawful searching.

“Standards for privacy are high in Massachusetts, but the standard of reasonableness reflects the world we live in now,” Ballinger said. “A dog walking around and sniffing you is a lot less intrusive than a cop grabbing you and shaking you like a leaf.”

“There’s nothing in modern technology that will be more accurate or sensitive than a dog’s nose,” Ballinger said.

There is no state oversight or registry for the approximately 300 police dogs in the state, but [Dwane] Foisy said training and annual certification through a reputable organization or police or sheriff’s department is essential to the integrity of K9 units.

“When you go into court, you need to have the paperwork and justification for how you know what your dog is telling you is correct, and that’s through training and maintenance,” he said.

The dogs are trained in just one area of detection, such as narcotics, explosives or cadavers, which Foisy said legitimizes the dog’s expertise and minimizes risk.

The concept behind the training is the same as when Ivan Pavlov in 1903 studied conditioned response in salivating dogs – repetition, non-verbal communication and food.

Ballinger said detection is “all based on a chain of events for the dog,” which is conditioned to know what to do based on the handler’s actions.

Dax, for example, knows to sniff for narcotics when his handler, Alberini, puts a certain collar on him.

Training begins with imprintation – when the dog spends several weeks learning a set of smells, such as the most common drugs or explosives in the area it serves.

Chelsea K9 officers Tom McLain and Ed Noftle said their explosive-detecting shepherds are now trained on up to 42 odors, including TNT, C4 and smokeless powder, while they started off with less than a dozen.

The dog and handler then focus on high-volume repetitive behavior, taught by Plymouth County’s K9 unit using food and real explosives or narcotics of varying purity and quantity.

By going through a chain of commands over and over again, the dog is trained to associate each command with what it needs to do to get the reward.

The only time a food-trained dog, like Dax, eats is when it successfully carries out a task, linking its ability to complete a duty with satisfying its hunger.

“We used to train with toys, but not every dog needs to play. Every dog needs to eat, though,” Ballinger said, adding that the dog remembers what it did wrong “if it’s going to sleep hungry.”

Trufant apparently did not bother to ask these police officers any tough questions. She reiterated Ballinger’s claims that police dogs “helped in the manhunt following the Boston bombings,” but how did they help? They didn’t prevent the bombings from happening nor did they locate the perpetrators, so what exactly did they do? How do the police she interviewed know how accurate their dogs are? Do they track how often their dogs give them false positives? Do they retire a dog if it gives too many false positives? Trufant didn’t bother asking these or any other questions that might cast doubt on the use of police dogs.

We do learn that there is “some pushback from privacy rights advocates who may consider the use of dogs unlawful searching,” however, Trufant did not actually interview any of these privacy advocates nor did she look into any empirical research on the efficacy of police dogs.

Had she looked into research on police dogs instead of mindlessly regurgitating the claims of several police officers all of whom have a direct interest in perpetuating the idea that these dogs serve a legitimate purpose, she would have found that police dogs have incredibly low success rates (they give false positives more often than not) and that it’s incredibly easy to manipulate a police dog into “signalling” its handler.

This really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. When a police dog “signals” its handler, all its does is sit down or bark. Dogs are not people. They can’t say “I smell marijuana in that guy’s car” or “that guy has a bomb.” Dogs sit down and bark all the time, for all kinds of reasons, so these so-called “signals” are, by their nature, completely ambiguous.

When a police dog “signals” its handler, it may be doing so because it actually smells drugs or explosives. But it may smell food. Or maybe it’s just excited. A police dog also might “signal” its handler because it knows that doing so makes its handler become happy or excited. After all, dogs have been bred over thousands of years to please their human masters. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were to find out that many police officers take advantage of this fact and intentionally cue their dogs to “signal” them whenever they happen to feel like searching someone. It’s not hard for someone to get a dog they’ve spent a lot of time with to sit down or bark, so we can’t really rule this possibility out.

Unless we develop mind-reading devices for dogs, we will never be able to say for certain what a police dog is thinking when it “signals” its handler. Therefore, searching someone based on the “signal” of a dog is completely arbitrary.

Although this one-sided article doesn’t address any of the concerns about police dogs, it actually does spell out the real reason that police want these dogs:

With more than 20 years as a K9 officer, Foisy, who works for the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department, said he saw an upswing in bomb-detecting police dogs after 9/11, but then the demand dropped off. He said bomb dogs might not be realistic for small departments, because calls for suspicious packages peak after an attack, but then trail off.

“When you have a narcotics dog, they’re making seizures of narcotics and money, and there’s a return on the investment,” Foisy said. “With explosives dogs, you may not get calls for service very often.”

Isn’t the honesty refreshing? Police do not want these dogs to keep people safe, they want police dogs because they can be used as a pretext for seizing money from people involved in the drug trade. This loot can then be used by the police departments to pad their budgets.

The people of Massachusetts have shown that they are fed up with the government’s war of drugs. Voters have passed two ballot initiatives in recent years, one decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and another legalizing marijuana for some medical uses, and the state’s drug testing lab scandal has undoubtedly left many people cynical. Even if the majority of the public isn’t completely against the drug war yet, public opinion is shifting and more people want limits put on this massive, inhumane, and wasteful social engineering program.

Unfortunately, police seem to be lagging behind public opinion.

There are literally millions of violent crimes and property crimes in the United States that go unsolved every year. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting statistics for 2011 show that in Massachusetts, 28,219 violent crimes (these include murder, nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) were reported to the police, but police only arrested suspects in 11,512 cases (or 40.8%). 148,790 property crimes (burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) were reported to the police, but police only arrested suspects in 18,428 cases (or 12.4%).

If police took all of the limited resources they currently use aggressively seeking out victimless offenders and instead put them to use trying to solve violent and property crimes, we’d probably be a lot safer.

But, as I explained, it’s not really about safety.

Sep 20 2011

Framingham police confiscate man’s bail money then continue to jail him

Dr. Q

When relatives of accused drug dealer Vicente Pizarro-Soler brought $5000 to the Framingham police station last Friday to post bail, police took the money. However, they did not release Pizarro-Soler from jail until Monday, according to The MetroWest Daily News.

That’s because, according to prosecutor Jonathan Sahrbeck, the police had one of their dogs smell the money that Pizarro-Soler’s relatives brought in and the dog signaled that the money smelled like drugs.

So-called “detection” dogs are nothing but a farce that police use as an excuse to get their paws on other peoples’ property. When a dog “signals” its handler, it might be smelling drugs, bombs, or whatever else the police happen to be searching for, but it also might simply be reacting to cues provided — consciously or unconsciously — by its handler. It might also “signal” its handler because it smells something other than drugs, bombs, etc. such as food. A handler might also misinterpret a dog’s innocuous behavior as a “signal” that drugs, bombs, etc. are present. There’s no way of knowing why a dog “signals” its handler. Given this fact, and given the fact that “detection” dogs have incredibly low rates of success, there’s no reason for any rational person to treat a dog’s “signal” as proof of anything.

Since “detection” dogs are nothing but hocus pocus, we can only conclude that the police who confiscated the bail money are thieves who had the intention of violating Pizarro-Soler’s right to be free from arbitrary detention.

According to the prosecutor, police said they witnessed Pizarro-Soler engaging in drug transactions in the parking lot of the Shoppers World shopping center in Framingham. They stopped a man who spoke with Pizarro-Soler and he indicated that he bought heroin from him. The police later pulled over Pizarro-Soler, spotted a bag on heroin in his car, and arrested him.

The prosecutor also claimed that Pizarro-Soler was charged with first-degree murder in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2008, but said he is not sure how that case turned out.

Pizarro-Soler was released after his arraignment yesterday. His next court hearing is pretrial conference schedule for October 19.

It may be that Pizarro-Soler is a drug dealer (although I don’t think buying, selling, and using drugs should be a crime). It may even be that he’s a murderer. But, in any case, police should not be able to use unscientific nonsense as an excuse to confiscate peoples’ property and hold them in jail.