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Parents of Teenager shot by Police Sniper speak out

The parents of Andrew Messina, the teenager shot and killed by an Alanta SWAT team sniper this May, spoke out recently for the first time since the incident and are quite critical of the police departments handling of their son. Andrew was upset about receiving a bad grade that day and was angrily storming around his suburban home with his fathers gun. His mother called 911 and requested police assistance in calming her son down.

Immediately her concern was over how much force they would use and asked for just one car to be sent. She says she was surprised when the SWAT team appeared.

Here is the full story from Huffington Post:

Parents of a teen killed by a SWAT team in suburban Atlanta in May spoke out this week for the first time to criticize police for aggressive tactics against their suicidal son.

Andrew Messina was armed with a .357 Magnum when a sniper shot him inside his Towne Lake home in May. But the 16-year-old’s parents hoped that police would send someone to calm the high school student who was threatening to kill himself after getting a poor grade that day. Instead, they saw a large deployment of heavily armed police descend on their home.

“They brought an army to take out a 16-year-old boy. To kill a 16-year-old boy,” said Nick Messina, the boy’s dad, in an exclusive interview with CBS Atlanta.

Lisa Messina, Andrew’s mother, called 911 when her son grabbed her husband’s gun and said he wanted to end his life. Even as the panicked mom talked to the 911 operator she worried about how the police would react. She asked if they would send “just one” police car.

As police materialized at the family’s door, Andrew took swigs of alcohol from a bottle and spoke to his father on a telephone.

‘It just happened so fast, and then he went upstairs. He had the gun in his hand, and he had bullets in the other hand,” Lisa said in the CBS interview.

Police cut the telephone line and sent negotiators into the house. On a recording made by Andrew, he can be heard telling the negotiators that he’s angry and wants to speak to his father, according to an account in the Daily News.

Soon after, a sniper with a large rifle entered the home. Minutes later, a loud blast was heard and Andrew was dead.

The Cherokee County Sheriff has defended his officer’s decision to shoot the younger Messina, because he broke a pane of glass with the firearm near the negotiators trying to convince him to lay down the weapon.

“It was no outcome we would ever hope for,” Sheriff Roger Garrison said in May to the Cherokee Tribune. “Our negotiators worked feverishly, to the very, very best of their abilities to establish rapport with Andrew and it’s just a very tragic situation. There are no winners.”

The family’s attorney disputes the police account, saying that no one saw Andrew pointing the pistol at any officer. He also contends the angle at which the sniper’s bullet punctured the teen’s abdomen shows he was not facing the cops.

The sheriff’s office and district attorney cleared the sniper of any wrongdoing, but the family has filed suit against Garrison’s office.

What do you think?

Arizona Attorney General’s Office Redacts Allegations about its Boss

Another week another story about Arizona politics in a disparaging light. This week is a follow up regarding the ongoing trouble for Arizona AG Tom Horne. As we posted on Oct 2nd Mr. Horne is in trouble for election misconduct when he may or may not have given instructions to an independent political group.

When Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery came out with his offices report they included un-redacted memos. Some of these memos talked about a possible affair between Mr. Horne, a married man, and Assistant Attorney General Carmen Chenal, a long-time Horne employee and confidant.

Now the Arizona AG’s office has redacted those memos and many in the press and first amendement experts are crying foul. The AG’s office contends that the redacted memos simply protect its own employees from gossip and other distracting information that the public does not need to know about. The experts cite Horne’s own office policy on dealing with such circumstances where it agrees with a lower courts ruling that just because information may be embarrassing does not preclude it from public review.

Reading some of these memos is like a page out of a high school soap opera. What do you think are things out of control at the AG?

Sheriff Joe Sued over Inmates Death

Its a busy news week for Arizona, first the redacted memo’s at the AG’s office and now Sheriff Joe’s Office gets sued by the family of an inmate killed in custody last December. The civil suit claims that Ernest “Marty” Atencio was assaulted by officers after his arrest and collapsed and died 5 days later and seeks a Jury Trial and unspecified damages.

The timing for this suit is not good as the Sheriff is running for his sixth term in office and is getting decent competition from Paul Penzone. The case is the latest of numerous suits faced by Maricopa County lawman Arpaio, who styles himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff” and is known for sweeps to round up illegal immigrants and no-frills treatment of inmates in county jails.

A federal judge is expected to rule soon in another suit brought against Arpaio, this one a class-action case by five Hispanic citizens who claimed they were stopped by the sheriff’s deputies because of their ethnicity.

Welcome to the wild west!

Arizona Attorney General investigated for elections misconduct, will not step down

In case you missed it on Monday the Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery announced that a 14 month investigation revealed that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, the state’s top law-enforcement official, deliberately broke campaign-finance laws during his 2010 bid for office by coordinating with an independent expenditure committee. Horne has responded that he is not guilty and that he will not step down citing other national politicians under similar circumstances who did not step down from their posts.

Basically when Horne was running for office in 2010 against Felecia Rotellini he gave direct instructions to an independent political group. This is a direct violation of campaign finance laws created to keep unlimited funding from overtaking political races. For Arizona’s top law man to commit this violation is even more stunning. Considering Horne beat the now disbarred Andrew Thomas for the nomination we can only further suspect how questionable Horne’s morals are.

Oh did we mention the hit and run?

Here are a bunch of links about the story:
County Attorney: AG Tom Horne broke law
Montgomery charges Horne with election law violations
Bill Montgomery charging Tom Horne; also Horne under investigation involving hit and run
PD: Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne investigated for property hit-and-run crash
Phoenix PD: Horne investigated for hit-and-run incident
Ariz. AG investigated for hit-and-run, campaign finance violations
Maricopa County Attorney sues AG over alleged campaign finance violations
Probe: Horne coordinated campaign plan illegally
AZ Attorney General Tom Horne Investigated for Hit-and-Run

Private prison company awarded Arizona Contract with 35% cost increase

Last week the Arizona Department of Corrections awarded a prison contract to Corrections Corporation of America(CCA). To no real surprise CCA employs lobbyists with close ties to Governor Jan Brewer. What is pretty shocking however is that by having CCA, a private company, run the prison instead of the state it will cost taxpayers 35% more.

So while government is getting smaller it is not getting cheaper. What’s even more wild is that government officials cite saving money because they state wont have to build a new prison, even though the facility at Eloy is already built.

From azcentral.com:

CCA is based out of Nashville, Tennessee and will operate a 1000 bed medium security prison in Eloy with the option to run another 1000 beds if serious offender inmates increase in population. CCA, a publicly held company that reported $162.5million in profits last year, was one of five bidders for the contract. The firm is politically connected to Brewer, who has pushed for the prison expansion. Until mid-July, CCA employed Chuck Coughlin, an influential lobbyist who is a close friend and an adviser to Brewer. And, state lobbying records show CCA also employs Policy Development Group, a lobbying firm that includes Paul Senseman, Brewer’s former spokesman.

“If you place two of your lobbyists at the right and left hand of the governor of the state and she has the final say and oversight of the Department of Corrections, I would say that’s a pretty smart business strategy,” said Caroline Isaacs of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group and opponent of Arizona’s private-prison expansion.

Steve Owen, a CCA spokesman, said the company won the bid through a rigorous procurement process, and he credited the support of Eloy and others in Pinal County for helping CCA win.

“A lot of companies bid for this contract. We were selected on the merits of our proposal,” Owen said. “CCA’s proposal provides Arizona an existing prison that is staffed by experienced corrections professionals, provides established rehabilitation programs, and meets and exceeds industry standards for safety and security.”

Bill Lamoreaux, a corrections spokesman, said lobbying firms had no influence on the decision-making process.

“The award was based on the evaluation of the proposals from the prospective vendors and was not influenced by lobbyists and/or consultants from any of the submitting firms. The award decision was the responsibility and decision of the Department of Corrections,” Lamoreaux said.

Attempts to reach Brewer’s office, Coughlin and Senseman were unsuccessful after the Department of Corrections announced just before 6 p.m. that that CCA had won the bid.

The state granted the contract even though Corrections records show that it’s cheaper for taxpayers to have the state run a prison. The move comes as the state’s overall prison population has declined the past two years, is expected to remain flat the next two years and then increase only slightly thereafter.

The contract calls for CCA to be paid a per diem rate of $65.43 per bed. The most recent information available shows the average daily cost per inmate in a state-run medium-custody facility in 2010 was $48.42. The award to CCA is 35percent more than what it cost the state to house and monitor inmates two years ago.

Corrections Director Charles Ryan has justified the extra cost for a private-prison operator because he said the state is not laying out additional cash to build a new prison, and the private firm needs to recover its cost for a facility.

However, CCA is not building a new prison in Eloy. Instead, it’s using an existing prison, according to Owen.

The contract calls for 500 beds to come online in January 2014. The next 500 would be in place in January 2015. The Legislature has not determined when, or if, the remaining 1,000 beds would be added, but the decision would be based on increases in the medium-security population.

If CCA operates the Eloy facility at 90percent of capacity for the 1,000 beds, it would make nearly $21.5million annually.

The company houses more than 80,000 inmates in more than 60 facilities, including six in Arizona. CCA’s Arizona facilities house inmates from other states. CCA board members include former U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini, D-Ariz., and Anne Mariucci, an Arizona Board of Regents member.

State corrections records, as of Friday, show there are 2,002 empty beds in Arizona’s prison system, which houses 39,843 male and female inmates in state-operated and private prisons.

The records show that 1,153 of the empty beds are in minimum-security facilities and 724 others are in women’s prisons. There’s a shortage of 31 medium-security prison beds.

Ryan has said despite the overall surplus of beds, the state cannot place medium-security inmates in minimum-security facilities because of safety concerns. Also, men cannot be housed in female prisons.

A group of elected officials, most of whom are Democrats, along with clergy members and representatives of civil-rights groups, this week asked Brewer to intervene and stop the contract. The governor, who supported the additional beds, declined.

“The bottom line is we need to protect safety while protecting taxpayer dollars, and expansion of private prisons does neither,” said state Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix.

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