Category Archives: Coronavirus

No Mask? Criminal Charge!

Wearing a mask isn't a form of oppression: opinion - Business Insider

Last Friday, in the wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Governor Inslee and the state’s secretary of health have issued a public health order mandating the use of face coverings and/or masks.

Inslee said during a news conference that masks are required in indoor settings, as well as outdoor settings if social distance rules cannot be maintained.

Those who willfully violate the mandate will face a misdemeanor charge, Inslee said.

 

“It is imperative that we adopt further measures to protect us all,” Governor Inslee added. “This is the way we need to look at this, we just cannot wish this virus to go away. We have to use tools that are available to us that we know work.”

The only individuals not required to adhere to the policy are those who are deaf or hard of hearing, children under the age of five, people who are eating, and those in other “common sense” situations.

Many protesters across the states have been pictured defying social distancing guidance without masks or face coverings. Online, the debate about mask effectiveness still plays out, with some claiming masks are not effective – or enforceable under US law.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face criminal charges for not wearing a mask during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Hiring a competent, experienced defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

ICE Detainees Getting Coronavirus

Why ICE's coronavirus response is dangerous — Quartz

Excellent article by Lisa Riordan Seville and Hannah Rappleye reports that ICE’s practice of transferring detainees around the country is leading to COVID-19 outbreaks.

In the past several months, while most Americans have been ordered to shelter at home, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has shuffled hundreds of people in its custody around the country. Immigrants have been transferred from California to Florida, Florida to New Mexico, Arizona to Washington State, Pennsylvania to Texas.

“These transfers, which ICE says were sometimes done to curb the spread of coronavirus, have led to outbreaks in facilities in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana, according to attorneys, news reports and ICE declarations filed in federal courts.”

According to the article, which includes data from ICE, since ICE announced its first case in March, COVID-19 has surfaced in at least 55 of the roughly 200 facilities that ICE uses. More than 1,400 detainees have been infected, roughly half of all those tested.

So far, two immigrants and three staffers have died.

ICE has a protocol for transfers. Detainees are medically screened and cleared for travel, issued a mask, and in some cases, have their temperatures taken, according to court filings and ICE statements. But it does not routinely test prior to moving detainees from one place to the next.

Even before the first ICE detainee was diagnosed with COVID-19, more than 4,000 doctors signed a letter warning ICE an “outbreak of COVID-19 in immigration detention facilities would be devastating.”

My opinion? The best method to stop the spread of disease is to release non-dangerous detainees, particularly those with medical issues. Because immigration detention is civil, the agency has wide discretion in who it detains. Fortunately, lawyers and advocacy groups across the U.S. have filed lawsuits in an attempt to force releases.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family members are incarcerated during this COVID-19 outbreak. Hiring an attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Inmates Sew Gowns & Masks In Fight Against Coronavirus

Members of the Washington Correction Center for Women’s Sisters of Charity stitch gowns to be donated to area fire and rescue, as well as masks for inmates.  (Courtesy of Washington Corrections Center for Women)

Great article by Seattle Times staff reporter describes how an inmate group called the Sisters of Charity dedicate themselves in the fight against the coronavirus.

The group, formed about 20 years ago at the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) in Gig Harbor – many of whom are serving life sentences – make items from donated materials for about 30 different charities.

Reporter Scott Hanson reports that South King Fire & Rescue needed protective gowns for an anticipated surge in coronavirus cases this fall and winter, and the group was happy to help. Not only have they made 700 gowns for South King Fire & Rescue, they also made 300 for the Gig Harbor Fire Department, with 600 more on order.

“I think this project meant so much because it was a call to action and an opportunity for them to be part of their community despite the walls,” said Carrie Hesch, WCCW’s recreation and athletic director. “They are absolutely thrilled to be able to do something for the community and stay busy.”

In one project home improvement giant Lowe’s donated Tyvek, a fabric used in protective gear, and the group used an assembly-line process that allowed workers to keep socially distant; two groups of 15 worked in rotating shifts.

One gown can be made every 13 minutes, depending on the skill level of the seamstress. In two weeks, the first 700 were made. Then came the 300 for Gig Harbor. The group is also making masks for the incarcerated and has produced more than 4,000.

Great job, ladies!

Also, excellent reporting from Scott Hanson. His article is one in a periodic Seattle Times series called Stepping Up, highlighting moments of compassion, duty and community in uncertain times.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face criminal charges during the Coronavirus Pandemic. Hiring an experienced criminal attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Decrease in DV Reporting

Audrey McIntosh | Commonwealth Fund

Great article by Denver Pratt of the Bellingham Herald reports that Whatcom County agencies helping domestic violence and child abuse victims say they’ve seen a decline in the number of abuse reports since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Pratt, the agencies say this is a worrying sign, as it likely means victims are isolated with their abusers and are less likely to be able to access help.

Elizabeth Hart, a program manager with Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services, said the nonprofit has seen a decrease in the number of calls reported to its 24-hour helpline. Hart said in March they helped 236 clients, as compared to 360 in March of last year.

Hart said the decrease suggests to her that people in abusive situations have a limited ability to reach out for help as Washington is under a “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order in an attempt to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. Gov. Jay Inslee has extended the order through May 31.

Hart said during a stay-home order, abusive partners have more opportunity to watch and control who their victims talk to and what they do. And as stresses mount in the home, like job loss or having to educate children while schools are closed, the number of abusive incidents could rise or become more dangerous, Hart said. She said if a victim loses a job, they can become more financially dependent on their abusive partner, making it harder to leave the abusive relationship. Hart said prior to the global pandemic, financial impacts were one of the main reasons a victim would stay with an abusive partner.

However, false reporting and victim recantations also commonly happen in DV crimes; and are just as likely to exacerbate during these strange and uncertain times. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a DV-related crime during this “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” period. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the first and best step towards justice.

Some Crimes Decreasing Amid COVID-19

Coronavirus Quarantines Spark Drop in Crime – for Now | National ...

Great article in Bloomberg by Chris Dolmetsch, Edvard Pettersson and Christopher Yasiejko reports that crime rates in some of the biggest U.S. cities have dropped since the Coranavirus Pandemic, with some exceptions.

In short, car thefts and store robberies are spiking in some municipalities even as crime overall — especially violent offenses — dropped in 10 of the 20 most populated cities, more than halving in San Francisco alone, according to data analysis from 10 major cities.

“It’s just a reflection of reduced opportunities for these kind of events,’’ said Daniel Nagin, a criminologist and professor of public policy at the H.J. Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. “In the case of murders, these often occur in public places in bars and things like that. With those kinds of activities shut down there’s less social interaction.

Car theft is surging New York city, up 49% for the week ended April 12 as compared to the same period a year earlier. It’s risen 53% over the past month and more than 63% year to date. Car theft was the only major crime to show an increase in Los Angeles, rising 11.3% for the the 28 days ending April 11 from the previous period.

Burglaries are also on the rise in New York, up 26% year-to-date as compared to the same period in 2019. In the week ended April 12, they more than doubled in the southern half of Manhattan, where many stores are now unoccupied. Burglaries jumped almost 34% in Denver in March amid a growing number of break-ins at marijuana dispensaries. In Philadelphia, burglaries were down 6.7% overall, with residential break-ins falling 25% as more people stay home, but unoccupied businesses were hit hard, with commercial burglary rising 71%.

Robberies and burglaries dropped more dramatically in Los Angeles than some other major U.S. cities, perhaps because it closed non-essential businesses and told people to stay at home earlier than other cities, said Charis Kubrin, a professor of criminology at the University of California, Irvine.

“Property crimes are crimes of opportunity and with most businesses closed, there are simply fewer opportunities.” ~Charis Kubrin, Professor of Criminology

Each of the 10 major cities that provided data are showing a decline in rapes and sexual assaults, with San Francisco posting the biggest drop — more than 50% — as compared to the same period a year earlier.

For the most part, murders are on the decline, and in cities showing a rise the numbers are low to begin with. A 25% increase in Austin, for example, is the result of one additional homicide, with the number rising from four to five.

“There are fewer opportunities for young people to get together . . . So there’s less chance when there’s alcohol involved for arguments to get out of hand and to result in assaults or homicides.” ~Charis Kubrin, Professor of Criminology

According to the article, most cities are showing a decline in assaults, following the trend in other violent-crimes categories. Notably, the drop-off comes even after the release from prison of thousands of non-violent offenders. That may show that many such offenders need not have been put in jail to start with.”

Theft is also down across the board in the cities surveyed.  But Kubrin said the drop in street crime may be followed by an increase in white-collar crime, such as price gauging and online fraud. “Opportunities have shifted from the street to online,” she said.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face criminal charges. Hiring a competent and experienced criminal defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Nearly 1,000 Inmates To Be Released In Washington State

93 prisoners set free on Vajpayee's birthday

Excellent article by Ashley Hiruko of reports that Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Washington state intends to release up to 950 inmates confined in Washington state prisons — a reduction of about 6 percent, based on 2019 inmate numbers — to stop a potential widespread outbreak of COVID-19 in the prison.

Inslee and the Washington State Department of Corrections released their emergency plan to keep inmates safe from COVID-19 on Monday, after a back-and-forth of lawsuit responses between the state and Columbia Legal Services.

Columbia Legal Services had filed a petition in April, with the Washington Supreme Court on behalf of incarcerated petitioners. It called for the prompt release of thousands of prisoners to prevent the further spread of Covid-19 behind bars.

As of April 10, 2020, the department has tested 237 inmates and has had 179 negative results, 8 positive results. Fifty test results are pending. According to the department of corrections, the people tested have been isolated. As of April 10, 161 inmates remain in isolation. Another 912 others are in quarantine.

Jaime Hawk, of the ACLU’s Washington Campaign for Smart Justice, called the plan a helpful first step, but said it doesn’t remove the dangers of Covid-19 for incarcerated people in Washington state.

“We urge the governor and the Department of Corrections to do more to reduce state prison populations, which is the only way to follow the advice of public health experts and keep those living and working in our correctional facilities safe.”  ~Jaime Hawk, ACLU

The state’s plan will target people for release who are:

• Non-violent inmates, both vulnerable and non-vulnerable, who have a release date within 75 days.

• Non-violent inmates and vulnerable inmates who have a release date in 2 to 6 months. They will be released through a re-entry planning process.

• Non-violent inmates and vulnerable inmates who have a release date in 6 to 8 months, with an approved release plan.

• Non-violent inmates who were jailed for lower level supervision violations

• Non-violent inmates who are already on work release and can be freed through the secretary’s furlough authority.

 

Jail Populations Are At Risk For Spreading CV-19

The 5 Worst Prisons On Earth: Step Inside A Living Hell

Great article by Anna Flagg and Joseph Neff of the Marshall Project says describes how jail populations are potentially risky environments for transmitting COVID-19.

For jails across the country, the churn of people moving in and out threatens to accelerate the spread of the disease, endangering the incarcerated, the staff and the larger community.

Analysis of a database of county- and jurisdiction-level jail populations built by the Vera Institute of Justice shows the short-term flow of people through local facilities, including some who were admitted more than once, for an average week in 2017 (the most recent year with available data). Apparently, in a given week, more than 200,000 people are booked into jails across the country; roughly the same number walk out every week.

Thankfully – and according to the article – some states and jurisdictions have responded by releasing prisoners or cutting jail time.

“Jails are transient,” say the authors. “Most there have been charged with crimes but not convicted. Many are waiting to pay bail to be released until trial or can’t afford bail. The rest have misdemeanor convictions with sentences counted in months instead of years.”

Preventing the spread of the virus in jails is challenging. Social distancing is crucial, but it’s virtually impossible in dormitories with rows of beds in a common room. The same is true of two people in a single cell, or group showers or bathrooms that serve dozens. All these dangers escalate when jails are overcrowdedfilthy or understaffed.

Making matters worse, physical contact between staff and the incarcerated is often unavoidable: Officers fingerprint, handcuff and supervise prisoners, as well as escort them to court and drive them to medical appointments. Many other people also flow in and out of jails, like family members who visit; volunteers who counsel or teach or preach; contractors who stock vending machines; and lawyers who meet their clients. Many jails have cut much of that traffic in response to coronavirus by limiting visits, services and vendors, and by moving to online and phone communication.

The authors say that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Correctional Association and other groups offer guidance for corrections departments on containing the virus: Start frequent temperature screenings; take oral medical histories; limit visitors and vendors; increase cleaning; restrict movement; create spaces for isolating; coordinate with health providers; and plan for possible staff shortages.

The authors also suggest “de-densifying” our jails by reducing bookings and accelerating releases, something over which sheriffs have limited control.

My opinion? Desperate times call for desperate measures. Perhaps persuading judges to set low bond amounts and minimal conditions of pretrial release is a good starting point. Police officers can be persuaded to make mindful decisions when they decide whether to arrest and book a person into jail, or issue a citation with a court date. For the most part, it’s advisable that police officers simply write citations for misdemeanors except for drunken driving and domestic violence charges.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are jailed and incarcerated during this time of CV-19 outbreaks. And hiring an experienced, effective attorney is the best step toward making that happen. Getting out of jail is a huge priority.

COVID-19 Brings DV Crimes?

Officials: Be aware of domestic violence risks as you shelter in ...

Interesting article by Jocelyn Noveck of the Associated Press describes a possible uptick in domestic violence related crimes resulting from couples and families being isolated together by the threat of COVID-19.

According to Ms. Noveck, concern is high in cities everywhere, and meaningful numbers are hard to come by.

“As the world’s families hunker down, there’s another danger, less obvious but just as insidious, that worries advocates and officials: a potential spike in domestic violence as victims spend day and night trapped at home with their abusers, with tensions rising, nowhere to escape, limited or no access to friends or relatives — and no idea when it will end.”

“In some cases, officials worry about a spike in calls, and in others, about a drop in calls, which might indicate that victims cannot find a safe way to reach out for help,” says Noveck.

In Los Angeles, officials have been bracing for a spike in abuse. “When cabin fever sets in, give it a week or two, people get tired of seeing each other and then you might have domestic violence,” said Alex Villanueva, the sheriff of Los Angeles County.

“We started getting on this as soon as soon as we started seeing the handwriting on the wall,” said Patti Giggans, executive director of the nonprofit Peace Over Violence in Los Angeles.

“One of the key challenges of this health pandemic is that home isn’t a safe place for everyone,” said Amanda Pyron, executive director of The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence, based in Chicago. “Victims and the abusers have to stay at the scene of the crime.” The group helps run a statewide 24-hour hotline, which has seen a spike in the average number of daily calls, from about 60 to 90, since confinement orders went into effect last weekend.

And at the group Women Safe, there’s been an uptick in calls. One change, said Frederique Martz, who runs the group, is that domestic violence victims are no longer being referred to hospitals which saturated with coronavirus cases.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face criminal charges involving Domestic Violence during these turbulent times. Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is the first – and best – step toward achieving justice.

Coronavirus-Related Crimes Increase

Image result for Coronavirus fraud

Informative article featured in the Seattle Times by Michael Balsamo, Colleen Long and Rodney Muhumuza reports that Coronavirus-related fraud are on the rise, along with concerns about hate crimes.

The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks hate groups, blames the virus for elevating racist and anti-Semitic messages, including suggesting that Jews are somehow responsible for the pandemic. Some hate groups have suggested tainting doorknobs or other surfaces with the virus so FBI and police officers fall ill.

Hundreds of masks have been stolen in Portland, Oregon, amid shortages for health care workers. Also, a Missouri man who was coughing told two store clerks he had a high fever. He was arrested after police said he threatened to give the employees coronavirus. People in Pennsylvania and Illinois were accused of similar crimes. Texas prosecutors brought charges against someone who falsely claimed on social media to have tested positive for COVID-19.

In a memo issued Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen told prosecutors they could charge people who threaten to spread the new coronavirus under U.S. terrorism statutes because the Justice Department considers it a “biological agent” under the law. In such cases, suspects could be charged with a number of offenses, including possessing or developing a biological agent as a weapon, he said.

“Threats or attempt to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated,” Rosen wrote in the memo to U.S. attorneys across the country and the heads of all Justice Department agencies, including the FBI.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other authorities are also working to debunk spurious claims about possible cures. They include false assertions that silver, bleach, and garlic could protect against the coronavirus, or that bananas prevent it. The WHO also says criminals are increasingly posing as WHO officials in calls and phishing emails to swipe information or money. The United Nations also set up a website to help prevent fraud.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has received more than 100 reports of virus-related scams, with losses totaling more than $1.1 million (970,000 pounds).

In the United States, marketing schemers have quickly pivoted to offering “senior care packages” that include hand sanitizer or even a purported vaccine, which doesn’t exist. Some falsely claim that Trump has ordered that seniors get tested. It’s all a trick to get personal information that can be used to bill federal and state health programs, health officials said.

“It’s a straight-up ruse to get your Medicare number or your Social Security number under the guise of having a test kit or a sanitary kit sent to you,” Christian Schrank, assistant inspector general for investigations at Health and Human Services.

Justice for the Jailed

Image result for d defendants incarcerated coronavirus

Great Op-ed article in the Seattle Times written by public defender Brandon Davis describes the challenges of getting justice for jailed defendants in the age of Coronavirus.

Mr. Davis poignantly says that given the scope of this crisis, it is inevitable that the virus will spread in King county’s two jails, where an estimated 2,000 people are currently housed. He says that even the simple act of handcuffing adds a risk — you can’t cover your mouth if you cough while your hands are tied behind your back. Additionally, Mr. Davis potently describes how the shadow cast by CV-19 detrimentally affects his ability to access numerous professionals involved in the justice system:

“I can’t visit my clients in jail without putting myself at risk. I can’t do site visits and interview witnesses. I can’t ask our social workers to meet with clients and put together treatment plans. I can’t negotiate with prosecutors in-person — it’s difficult to even get them on the phone.”

Mr. Davis points out that jury trials are suspended until April 24, and it is possible the suspension will last much longer. And once trials resume, there will be a massive backlog.

“The Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to a speedy trial, but because of the coronavirus, those who are being held on bond amounts they cannot afford are looking at many more months in an unsafe jail. COVID-19 has ground the criminal legal system to a halt, which is understandable in a pandemic of this magnitude, but our clients in jail are the ones left suffering because of it,” says Mr. Davis.

He describes a story where, on a Saturday, he had to assist his clients in King County Jail.  Before the hearings began, all 20 or so defendants are crammed in “the tank,” which is a small holding cell. Mr. Davis and his colleagues had to enter the tank to talk to each and every one of the incarcerated defendants.

“The visuals could not be starker,” wrote Mr. Davis. “The judge and the prosecutor were at a safe remove, but public defenders were working side-by-side with our clients, all of us at risk. Public health concerns the whole public, and whether the court and the prosecutors would like to admit it, people in jail are part of the public, too.”

I salute Mr. Davis for sharing his insights and writing such a fantastic article. The Coronavirus pandemic is a terrible blight on our communities. It not only affects the contaminated, but people like Mr. Davis who try to help them, too.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are presently incarcerated and want help getting released from jail. Under the circumstances, judges and prosecutors might be persuaded to release defendants or lower bail during this terribly volatile and troubling time.