Archive for December, 2011

Player’s Arrest Could Have Far Reaching Implications for NFL

Listening and reading the media commentary regarding the arrest of Chicago Bears wide receiver Sam Hurd is more than just entertaining—it is almost laughable.

Understandably, the story of Hurd’s arrest on serious federal drug charges is big news.  Huge stories fill a ratings book and sell newspapers.  But before commenting or writing about an arrest, these media professionals should perform their due diligence and get a grasp of the legal aspects relevant to the investigation.

Consider some of the questions raised by SB Nation “contributor” Bomani Jones as he thinks, in print, aloud:

“What happened to the marijuana?” Jones asks, before noting that Hurd went to claim $88,000 confiscated by police during a traffic stop but did not seek to reclaim the “weed.”

Even in Berkeley and Madison, marijuana remains a federally classified schedule one drug, which might explain Hurd’s alleged reluctance to stake a claim to the “weed.” Reading between the lines of various media reports it appears that investigators discovered trace amounts of marijuana on or inside a duffle bag, resulting the likely confiscation of a small amount of marijuana.  Cash, on the other hand, is legal tender and lawful to possess.

As stupid as this may sound to the average sports-minded talking head, asking for the cash could serve as a defense. Who in their right mind, a juror might reason, would ask for money back if the cash were proceeds of ill-gotten gains? Hurd makes a good, legitimate living playing football. What is so outrageous about a wealthy athlete possessing large amounts of cash? 

Media reports suggest that Tiger Woods spent good sums of money in various cities around the world during his alleged liaisons with women. Yet not one creditable news source has so much as suggested that Tiger was involved in criminal activity. The lifestyles of young, wealthy athletes are, for better or worse, much different from those of working stiffs, where a mechanic, grocer, and plumber live-and-die by the digits in their checkbooks not by the number of groupies in their hotel rooms.

In the criminal complaint, federal authorities allege that Hurd is more of a financier than hands-on drug dealer.  Investigators made use of a shadowy go-between, identified only by the initials T.L., as an intermediary between Hurd and larger drug suppliers. The purpose of the complaint is to show the probable cause required to arrest Hurd. The evidence needed to convict likely runs substantially deeper.  Rarely, if ever, will the federal government charge a high-profile defendant absent audio or video recordings illustrating the charged party’s involvement in a criminal conspiracy. 

Another interesting facet of this ongoing investigation is the possibility that other NFL players are somehow involved as either co-conspirators or customers of Hurd’s. 

The Huffington Post’s Andrew Brandt notes “…authorities claim to have a list (possibly in the double digits) of NFL clients that Hurd served.”

Hurd’s attorney disputes that a list of potential NFL customers exists. 

What is unusual in the Hurd case, however, is the pace of the investigation from its initiation in mid-July to an arrest just five months later. In most instances, agents of the federal government take years to affect arrests in drug conspiracies. Local law enforcement officers often gripe that while federal investigators spend years building big cases the targets remain involved in ongoing criminal activity directly affecting certain neighborhoods and communities. 

For whatever reason, authorities sought a quick resolution to the Hurd case.  It is only a hunch, but that “double-digit” list of potential NFL customers may be the reason. Federal prosecutors might be willing to let Hurd plead to a lesser offense—one where he serves five to ten years instead of 15 to 30—if he agrees to testify against other athletes.

To those sports-minded talking heads, here is one barometer to follow-up on. Keep an ear to the ground in an attempt to ascertain if any members of the Bears, Cowboys or other NFL teams, retain high-profile defense attorneys.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

 © Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011


Predator Spy Drones: Hoovering Above Your Town Soon?

To view this article, checkout Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You coming to Amazon.com in December 2012.

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

 © Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011


Movie Review: Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar

Over the course of my career with the Milwaukee Police Department, I have served with a handful of rising stars.  Nonetheless, it is highly unusual for a person to receive a promotion to the rank of captain prior to their 35th birthday. 

In 1924, however, J. Edgar Hoover received an appointment to director of the Bureau of Investigation—the forefather of the FBI—at the tender age of 29. 

Clint Eastwood’s new movie, J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, documents Hoover’s ascendency from a bureaucratic legal aide to the most powerful law enforcement official in the history of the United States. Having delved into the history of the bureau prior to attending the FBI National Academy, the portrayal of Hoover as a power hungry eccentric is accurate.

Before the dawn of computers, high tech surveillance, and intelligence fusion centers, J. Edgar Hoover realized that information is power. Gathering and harnessing dirt on leaders and powerful politicians was one of the ways Hoover remained in-charge of the FBI for nearly 48 years.

During one such scene in J. Edgar, the U.S. attorney general, Robert Kennedy, summons Hoover to his office to discuss wiretaps. When vaguely threatened, the FBI director provides a transcript of the attorney general’s brother, President Kennedy, engaged in a tryst with an East German woman.   

Hoover’s secret files noted the activities of civil rights leaders, politicians, actors and union heads.

A few scenes in the movie, however, are historically twisted.

Hoover is given far too much credit for the development of fingerprints as a means of individual identification. William Herschel developed dactylography—the study of fingerprints—while in India in 1860.  Thirty-two years later, an Argentine investigator cleared the first homicide using a single ,bloody fingerprint to obtain a confession. It was Biologist Francis Galton, not researchers at the FBI, that categorized the five basic patterns of fingerprints in his 1895 book Fingerprint Directories. Hoover simply fought for and received authority from congress to classify and centrally house fingerprints obtained from various law enforcement agencies.

The historical and factual inaccuracies aside, the overall theme of J. Edgar, that absolute power corrupts absolutely, is very powerful and lends credence to the fears of our nation’s founding fathers that a strong, centralized federal government would slowly seize the civil liberties of the citizenry under the guise of security and protection.

For moviegoers on-the-lookout for lots of shoot ‘um-up action, J. Edgar will surely disappoint. But for those interested in getting a look into the mindset of the Washington power elites, this movie will prove insightful.

In my book, J. Edgar gets four stars. For those interested in a career in law enforcement, this movie serves as a testament to the relevance of critical thinking, especially at a time in our nation’s history when some members of the mainstream media seem too content reporting what those in authority say as gospel.

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New Amazon Service Lends Kindle Books at No Cost

I received word from my publisher late today that Amazon.com is offering a new service to Kindle reader owners.  For those subscribing to Amazon’s Prime service, thousands of books are now available for download at no additional cost. 

These books include the Milwaukee crime novel The Cozen Protocol and the e-magazine expose Predators on the Parkway: a Former Homicide Detective Explores the Colonial Parkway Murders, authored by yours truly. 

If your in the market for an outstanding and yet affordable Christmas gift, consider the Kindle Fire—Amazon’s computer tablet. I just witnessed a demonstration of this device, which was quite impressive (I really enjoyed the streaming video and movies, too).

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Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files Psychology of Homicide presentation.  For more information, visit www.badgerwordsmith.com/the_psychology_of_homicide_presentation.html

 © Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2011