The Los Angeles Times Gets It Badly Wrong On A PATRIOT Act Story

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33 Responses

  1. Mary says:

    Ken,
    This is the first post I've read by you–just learned of this blog through Mark Bennett's Defending People blog.

    All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you! It's so gratifying to know there are still people out there who care about the truth and are willing to roll up their sleeves and take on the liars. You were too gentile to call it lies, but..
    I'll be back.
    Mary

  2. Jay L. says:

    As a divorced, non-custodial father, I found her story to be heartbreaking, especially as it suggested that the children were now with complete strangers. However, digging more deeply (as you did too) showed that the Times may have whitewashed the story a bit. In addition to the FBI agent's report, there was also this article that suggested a *prior* conviction and jail time for abuse:

    Passenger pleads not guilty to charges
    Associated Press Friday, July 27, 2007

    DENVER — An airline passenger accused of repeatedly hitting her children and threatening a flight attendant on a San Francisco-to-Denver flight pleaded not guilty Thursday.

    Tamera Jo Freeman, 38, is charged with two counts of assault and one count of interfering with a flight attendant.

    Freeman was arrested July 16 when her Frontier Airlines flight landed in Denver. Other passengers said she hit her two young children on their legs, shoulders and knees, and that the children tried to hide from her, an arrest warrant affidavit said.

    Federal Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer ordered her to remain in jail, citing a lack of local ties to ensure she would show up for trial. He also cited "medical issues that I find problematic," but he did not elaborate.

    Neither Freeman nor her court-appointed lawyer, Martha Eskesen, asked that she be released on bond.

    In a hearing last week, Eskesen and prosecutors referred to a "situation" in Hawaii but did not elaborate.

    Records from the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center show a Tamera Freeman with the same birth date as the woman arrested in Denver was found guilty of abusing a family or household member in 2005 and sentenced to 30 days in jail and a year of probation.

    Eskesen requested that sensitive details in the case not be released to the public. Shaffer said he believed some information in Freeman's pretrial service report was private.

    Prosecutors earlier said that the pretrial service report recommended Freeman be released to a halfway house, but there was no space available.

    U.S. Attorney's spokesman Jeff Dorschner said Freeman would remain in jail indefinitely pending resolution of her case.

    Freeman's children, a 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, have been placed in the custody of family members in California.

  3. Patterico says:

    Excellent job. Great blog!

  4. howard432 says:

    Terrific piece. It seems that every day at least one more literate truth telling blog appears, so many in fact that I now find I don't have the time to read all of them. I'll put this site on my list to visit once a week, and thanx for the piece. BTW I'm not surprised at any misinformation promulgated by MSNBC or the LAT.

  5. Nicholas Donovan says:

    All things being equal, this is NOT a matter of national security. It's a civil case and she should be charged with disorderly conduct, assault of a minor and whatever the appropriate statute is for unruly behavior.

    This is NOT, I repeat once a national security threat. Where does it end? When Joe and Bob and mikes bar get into a fight and start a fire? What if it's by a gas station? Watch out! It's a bomb! Maybe they planned it!

    Do you see what I mean? I'm pointing out the ridiculous by being ridiculous. In fact the legislation itself is just that…. ridiculous.

    Cheers,

    Nicholas Donovan

  6. Nicolas Martin says:

    The public's ignorance of law would be less excusable if legal practice were not controlled by a state-licensed cartel. It isn't as though, by educating themselves, people can become wiser legal consumers, or that they can prevent the passage and enforcement of unjust laws. Becoming an informed consumer of a cartel's product or service is highly overrated, and becoming aware of the laws is merely depressing.

  7. Patrick says:

    Scott Greenfield, at his fine blog Simple Justice, muddies the water a bit. Damned defense attorneys.

  8. Ken says:

    All things being equal, this is NOT a matter of national security. It’s a civil case and she should be charged with disorderly conduct, assault of a minor and whatever the appropriate statute is for unruly behavior.

    Nicholas, that's a perfectly arguable position. My point in the post is that it's a position that just as easily could have been taken about the statute before it was amended by the USA PATRIOT Act — that the Times' spin about this as post-9/11 hysteria is substantially misleading.

  9. shg says:

    Thank you Patrick. That's the nicest thing anyone's said about me all day.

  10. Dottie says:

    Have you tried sending this info to Keith Olbermann? He would probably correct it if he knew.There is a Twitter account, "ToryAtWork," which is supposedly a person that works on the Countdown show.

  11. You give Greenfield way too much credit. His post is nonsense.

    He doesn't even consider that a PSR exists — though admittedly not a public document — which would detail the underlying facts in much greater detail than would the plea agreement. The PSR isn't written by a law enforcement agent or a prosecutor — it's written by the Probation Officer for the benefit of the judge. The PSR facts better jibe with the plea agreement facts, or the Judge is going to have a lot of questions he wants answered. Defendants can object to facts set forth in the PSR, and demand an evidentiary hearing to have them resolved.

    Re the complaint affidavit, Greenfield doesn't even acknowledge that not only does the agent recount witness statements — he NAMES THE WITNESSES. The segment you excerpt above has no fewer than 8 witnesses listed by name who described the defendant's conduct. If the agent had so egegiously taken their comments out of context, presumably the defense lawyer would have made some effort in a court document to point that out.

    Finally, none of you get the bail issue right. This offense is classfied as a crime of violence with a maximum penalty of more than 10 years. That means under the Bail Reform Act detention is presumed. The defendant can overcome this presumption by clear and convincing evidence that she is not a flight risk or danger to the community. She wasn't ordered detained until 10 days after her arrest – even though she would have had her initial appearance withing 48 hours of her arrest. The detention hearing was clearly put over for a few days while all sides gathered more information. Ultimtely, her attorney could not put together a package of information that could satisfy the court that conditions of pretrial release could be fashioned. From the newspaper article it appears that the fligth was from Honolulu to Denver, but her ultimate destination was Oklahoma City. So she has no contacts to the Denver community where she will stand trial. But it is Denver Pretrial Services and her Denver attorneys that have to try and run down information on her behalf.

    Further, her prior Hawaii conviction was from two years earlier — meaning her oldest would have been 2 and she was either pregnant or had a newborn infant. There are no facts about that prior conviction, but if it involved either of the two children — which I suspect it did since the defense attorney didn't want the "sensitive" details of that case made public.

    There was the possibility that she could have been charged with child abuse under the assimilated crimes provisions. THat would have made the children "Victims" under the Bail Reform Act, and required another whole set of pretrial release conditions.

    The bottom line is that the public does not know what is contained in the PreTrial Services Report that recommended detention. A presumption attached based on the crime with which she was charged. So, for Greenfield to wonder "Why did the government even seek bail" is simply a statement of blantant ignorance about how these cases proceed EVERY DAY in federal court.

  12. Ken says:

    Shipwreckedcrew, though I disagreed with some of Scott Greenfield's points, I don't agree with all your criticism of them. The factual section of the PSR (Presentence Report, to the uninitiated) is, in my experience as a prosecutor and then a defense attorney, little more than a regurgitation of whatever incident reports the government gives to the Probation Officer. I've never had a judge comment when the facts in a plea agreement differ from those set forth in the PSR — and often the facts are either narrower or broader in some respect.

    You may be right on the rebuttable presumption of detention — I did not consider that angle.

    As you suggest, the article quoted earlier up the comments suggests that something in the Pretrial Services Report bothered the judge and had a hand in the detention.

  13. Ken — while I agree that the "offense conduct" section of the PreSentence report often mirrors the law enforcement reports, the fact remains that defendants have a chance to contest the offense conduct section if they think it inaccurately reports what happened. The fact that they usually don't does not, in my view, suggest that they don't care whether it is accurate or not (as Greenfield implies about plea agreements), but because they KNOW the facts set forth in both the PSR AND the Plea Agreement DO accurately reflect what happened.

    The simple reason the facts in the PSR are generally more broad than in the plea agreement relates to the difference purpose served by each document. The plea agreement simple establishes that facts exist to support the plea, whereas the PSR is to inform the judge of all the relevant factual considerations that should be taken into consideration in making a sentencing determination.

    Greenfield's criticisms amount to nothing more than a statement that because it was an FBI agent or prosecutor who memorialized the statements and observations of the witnesses, both accounts are unworthy of belief.

    That's nonsense. There are many opportunities for a criminal defendant to correct the factual record — or at least contest it — if it is untrue. The fact that they so rarely do so is much more of an acknowlegement of its accuracy than an acquiesence to their powerlessness to change it.

    Apart from all the above, I echo Patterico's endorsement of you blog, and I'll be a regular visitor. I'm a guest blogger on his site, and I'm going to suggest to him that we add this site to the blogroll over there consistent with you stated policy.

    Look forward to exchanging thougths often going forward.

  14. Patterico says:

    I have indeed added Popehat to my blogroll. It's a fine blog.

  15. Patrick says:

    Thank you, and reciprocated.

  16. patriotflier says:

    Thanks for showing up the lazy liberal A holes of the MSM. OLBERMAN needs to be flushed down the toilet where he csn join his ilk..

  17. Patrick says:

    I agree with you about the lazy part, Patriot, but not necessarily about the liberal. I'm rather conservative in a libertarian sort of way, and still have little faith in TSA or any other government branch.

    Bad journalism is a nonpartisan issue.

  18. Drew says:

    From your research, there is no doubt that she's a first class bitch and not the greatest mom in the world. However, her actions do begin to approach what a normal person would define as terrorism. This behavior, if done in another venue would have gotten her jail time at best. The charge of terrorism should be reserved for terrorists, lest it be watered down by cases like this. If you think its a smart thing to equate this woman with terrorists then you're not thinking of the legal ramifications and definitions to real terrorists that face trial.

  19. Ken says:

    But Drew, you missed the point of most of the blog post. The only one saying she's been branded a terrorist is the LA Times. She was convicted under a statute that existed before the USA PATRIOT Act for conduct that would have been prosecuted before the USA PATRIOT Act and received the same sentence she would have received before the USA PATRIOT Act. You will not find the word "terrorist" in her complaint, her indictment, her plea agreement, or the judgment and commitment order reflecting her conviction and sentence.

  20. Elatua says:

    Hello Ken,

    Thank you for your excellent journalism and sane response to hysterical reporting. As a Purser Flight Attendant for a major airline, I knew there was a lot more to the story than was reported.

    Over the years, I have had a number of flights met by authorities or passengers removed beforehand and it is never without legitimate cause. And quite frankly, alcohol is usually a big factor.

    As stated in the affidavit:

    - Tamera Freeman appeared intoxicated and violent towards her children before she boarded the flight in San Francisco;

    Unfortunately, this entire incident could have been avoided simply by refusing Ms. Freeman boarding. It is absolutely a violation of FAA regulations to *knowingly* board any person who appears to be intoxicated and the airline can be levied hefty five-figure $ fines for doing so. The rule of thumb is that if behavior appears to be a problem on the ground, then it will be a problem in the air.

    I cannot tell you how many people have imploringly looked to me with fear in their eyes when a situation begins to escalate in flight. Post 911, we are more vigilant than ever and our passengers step up immediately to help if need be.

    Threatening, interfering with and/or failure to comply with flight crew member instructions is a Federal offense for good reason. There are too many things that can go wrong at 40,000 feet and safety protocols must be followed to be effective. When you are responsible for the safety and well-being of several hundred people and someone is behaving in a threatening manner – it is not personal – it is a threat to *everyone* on board.

  21. Matthew says:

    As for the main thrust of the post, which is the blatant slanting of the article, in my experience, most bad journalism is properly attributed to stupidity and sloth. Because of what has been happening to journalism as business, the amount of stupidity and sloth has grown faster than the decrease in journalists.

    In other words, not only are there fewer reporters, the ones that remain are lazier and dumber than in years past.

  22. joe says:

    Hay dumbass Republican's you are not safer on airlines becuase the Gov't uses the Patriot Act for trivial nonsense like this. The LA Times was very correct in there reporting. Welcome to the USSA

  23. Ken says:

    Aw, Joe, why would you use the email address of a local Libertarian Party official to leave a dumb, sub-literate troll comment like that?

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