Paying it forward

The police have been in a lot of controversy lately but just like any group of people, there are so many good individuals that often get overlooked. Sometimes an act of kindness or compassion can really go a long way and this is one of those stories that brings a smile to your face and hopefully will inspire you to do some good as well.

One Canadian constable made smiles blossom like flowers on Feb. 14.

Constable Kyle Isenor with the Ste. Anne Police Department in Manitoba, Canada, handed out 30 roses and cards on Valentine’s Day instead of tickets, CBC News reported.

“I was shocked,” Laurie Burbine, a recipient of a rose told CBC News. “I thought, ‘Who does that?’ What an awesome thing to do. It made my day.”

Burbine was returning from her son’s hockey game when she was pulled over by Isenor. At first she was confused as to why she was being pulled over, then she remembered one of her headlights had burned out. Her husband had promised to change it but hadn’t gotten to it by the time she was pulled over.

“I figured the ticket would be at least $100 or more,” Burbine told CBC, adding that she hasn’t had a ticket in 25 years.

Yet, instead of a fine, she got a flower and a hockey-themed card.

“Happy Valentine’s Day from the Ste. Anne police,” read the card. “P.S. Fix the headlight.”

The act was especially touching to Burbine whose husband was out of town for the romantic holiday.

Isenor got the idea from a YouTube video he had seen of police officers in the U.S. handing out gifts instead of tickets for Christmas. Isenor loved the idea and decided he’d leave people who thought they were in trouble smelling like roses on Valentine’s Day with his spin on the good deed.

He bought 30 roses, cards and a bouquet of assorted flowers with his own money and passed them out to random citizens.

“Some people were very shocked and didn’t know what to say,” Isenor said in a follow-up video CBC posted to its Facebook page. “It really brightened their day.”

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Cosby’s legal defense team is something else.

Bill Cosby recently made headlines as several women came forward with allegations of rape, sexual misconduct and other complaints against the actor. With a name like Cosby, his legal team is going to be one of the best. This article examines who Cosby has brought on, where their strengths lie and what could be in store for him in this trial.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – At his only criminal court appearance to date, aging TV icon Bill Cosby stumbled past a scrum of photographers while two lawyers held him up on either side, walking him into a suburban Philadelphia courtroom.

The attorneys hired to defend Cosby in the sex-assault case are a study in contrasts:

– Outsider Monique Pressley, a lawyer-turned-TV legal analyst with side jobs as a pastor, motivational speaker and radio host, who got a taste of the limelight as a law student, posing a question about race in the O.J. Simpson trial on CNN’s Larry King Live.

– Insider Brian McMonagle, a revered local criminal lawyer whose past clients include mobsters, rappers, athletes and – in a case with some parallels to Cosby’s – the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia during the searing priest-pedophile scandal.

“He takes a very, very aggressive posture, but does it in a diplomatic and smooth fashion. It’s almost like an iron fist in a velvet glove. He is a strong advocate for his client, but can break tension with a quip or a joke,” said fellow Philadelphia criminal lawyer William J. Brennan. “Mr. Cosby is lucky to have him.”


McMonagle, 57, is expected to lead the defense arguments inside the courtroom when Cosby, 78, returns to court Feb. 2 in a crucial bid to have the case dismissed. He will attack the 12-year delay to file charges, the use of Cosby’s deposition from accuser Andrea Constand’s civil case, and the government’s plan to call other accusers to show a pattern of behavior.

But Pressley will be the lawyer people see on TV in their living rooms.

Pressley, 45, was plucked from relative obscurity to lead the sprawling flock of lawyers Cosby has deployed to fight sex-assault and defamation battles in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and California, involving some of the dozens of women who accuse him of drugging and molesting them. After stints as both a prosecutor and public defender in Washington, D.C., she was doing TV commentary on the case when she impressed someone in the Cosby camp last fall.

“She’s got his confidence,” said celebrity defense lawyer Mark Geragos. “Obviously, you can’t diminish the fact that you would want a female on the defense team. You’re going to have female after female coming up and accusing him. … And race is always a subtext in the criminal justice system.”

Pressley, who is black, could boost Cosby’s battered standing in the black community. McMonagle, who is white, may play to jurors in mostly white Montgomery County.

Pressley has taken to the airwaves to blast accusers who come forward decades later to “persecute” someone. And she dismissed an FBI study that found only a tiny fraction of rape accusations are proved false.

“How many people of influence and means have been the victims of extortion attempts? How many women – and men – have been willing to offer up their bodies on a casting couch?” she asked in a Huffington Post Live interview that earned raves for her poise under fire.

Constand, now 42, went to police in 2005 to report that Cosby had drugged and violated her a year earlier at his home near Philadelphia. Cosby called the contact consensual.

McMonagle will argue that a former prosecutor forged a deal that Cosby would never be prosecuted and could therefore testify, without invoking his right not to incriminate himself, in Constand’s later civil suit. In the deposition, unsealed last year, Cosby detailed his romantic interest in Constand, who is gay; his pursuit of other young women during his long marriage; and his use of quaaludes in the 1970s as a seduction tool. He settled with Constand soon afterward.

Incoming District Attorney Kevin Steele pondered that testimony, along with the dozens of new accusers, and decided to charge Cosby weeks before the 12-year deadline expired this month. He has said there is no evidence that Cosby had an immunity deal with former prosecutor Bruce Castor.

McMonagle has pulled off wins in cases no less difficult.

He unearthed a lab error in a drug-linked date rape case involving a local GOP official; helped persuade authorities not to charge future NBA standout Tyreke Evans as an accessory in a fatal 2007 shooting; and helped Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua avoid testifying in open court in the priest sex-abuse case.

The elderly Bevilacqua died before a loyal aide was convicted in 2012 of keeping the church’s sordid secrets under lock and key. Monsignor William Lynn has spent two years in prison while appeals courts debate the fairness of the trial, including the testimony of 21 church accusers his lawyers calls peripheral to the case.

McMonagle and Pressley will likewise press to keep other Cosby accusers from testifying. McMonagle declined to comment for this article, while Pressley did not return messages seeking comment.

“Anybody who thinks that you can just ignore the media, it’s kind of a quaint thought,” Geragos said of Cosby’s two-prong legal strategy. “There’s a trial inside the courtroom – but you don’t want to be in a position where you can’t find a jury willing to acquit him.”

The Women Who Have Accused Bill Cosby Of Sexual Assault


The angle from the El Chapo Case no one’s talking about.

Recently Sean Penn made headlines by getting an interview with “El Chapo”, a notorious drug kingpin in the Mexican Cartel. Although this interview has been highly sought after by journalists and Sean Penn was the only one to actually get the opportunity, the interview itself is not as popular as the chase to get it.

Actor Sean Penn lamented in a Sunday interview with Charlie Rose that his Rolling Stone article about the famed Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera “failed” because it didn’t provoke a debate about the ethics of the drug war.

Critics have been quick to pounce on Penn, whose article focused at least as much on himself as it did on the fugitive drug capo. But the piece did contain one important nugget that should prompt Americans to rethink how their government is fighting a four-decade war against drugs.

In a pre-recorded video, Guzmán told Rolling Stone repeatedly that he got involved in drug trafficking in the first place because he didn’t have any other options.

Asked about his childhood, Guzmán said his parents were “very humble, very poor” and that he remembered his mother making bread to support the family.

In this March 4, 2010, file photo, a soldier stands on a poppy field during an eradication supervised by the army on the outskirts of Morelia, Mexico. The drug war has continued to claim lives in the years since.

“I sold oranges, I sold soft drinks, I sold candy,”Guzmán said. “In that area, even today, there’s no jobs. The way to buy food and survive is by planting poppies marijuana. I, from that age [15], began to grow it, to harvest it, to sell it.”

He later returned to the subject unprompted: “It’s a reality that drugs destroy. Unfortunately, as I said before, where I grew up there wasn’t another way, and there still isn’t, to survive.”

Born in the mountain hamlet of La Tuna de Badiraguato, Guzmán comes from an impoverished countryside of a state located along the Pacific coast. The area has a history of drug trafficking that stretches back to a minor role in opium production in the late 19th century.

Despite commanding billions in assets throughout his life, the fugitive drug lord remained in the hills of Sinaloa. Some locals there praise him as a patron of the poor in a place where the government is weak, while others fear the cartel violence that has helped push Badiraguato’s homicide rate five times higher than the national average of 16 per 100,000, according to The Associated Press. 

Journalist Malcolm Beith confirms Guzmán’s impressions in his 2010 book The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for ‘El Chapo,’ the World’s Most Wanted Drug Lord.

“Only the lucky few can find work in the local government, or health and education,” Beith wrote in a description of El Chapo’s hometown of La Tuna de Badiraguato, Sinaloa. “Some head to the nearby city of Culiacán; most stay in Badiraguato and its environs and turn to drugs.”

It’s easy to see why. Conservative estimates place the Sinaloa cartel’s revenues at around $3 billion annually — more than one-third of the entire Sinaloa state GDP, where agriculture, tourism and small commerce have historically dominated the local economy.

None of this is to say that poverty alone necessarily leads to drug trafficking. And Guzmán’s contention that poverty pressed him into the drug trade explains how he got his start, but not why he continued to take part in an illegal business or allegedly ordered thousands of deaths well after he had become a billionaire.

But his words do hint at one of the key problems driving the drug war, beyond the existence of high demand for illegal drugs in the United States. Until Mexico offers far more high-paying jobs, drug cartels can expect a consistent supply of labor.

“Whether it’s drug trafficking or other illegal activities, a lack of viable legal economic opportunities or avenues for advancement does lead people to desperation,” Shannon O’Neil, the author of Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States and the Road Ahead, told The WorldPost. “And especially in that area of Sinaloa — why would you farm corn if you could farm marijuana or poppies?”


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Know Your Rights

Ask to be released in order to get an Independent Blood Test. Sometimes, after a person has been arrested for DUI, and has had their blood drawn or breath tests done, the officer will tell the suspect that they have the right to an Independent Blood Test. This can literally be a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Most people, unfortunately, don’t want to bother, or don’t understand what it means. Basically, the officer has gathered evidence to use against you at trial on a charge of DUI, specifically a sample of blood, or your breath test results. You, however, have the right to prove your innocence – proof that the officer’s evidence is absolutely wrong. It is not enough that you are able to retest the blood sample that the officer took from you, you have the right to your own blood test, extracted by your own phlebotomist, and tested by your own laboratory. This is the “Right to an Independent Test.” The interesting thing about this is, while most people can’t, in reality, get this Independent Blood Test; because they don’t know who to call, don’t know where to go, don’t want to get another blood test done, and can’t just walk into a hospital and tell them to take your blood, that is not the point. The issue is, did the police officer interfere with your Right to an Independent Test. You don’t actually have to get an Independent Blood Test, but you want to ask to be released to get an Independent Blood Test. If the officer was going to take you to jail, this can be your “Get Out of Jail Free” card. If the officer doesn’t allow you to get this independent evidence sufficiently enough, it can lead to their blood or breath test evidence being suppressed… because basically it is unfair. If the officers are allowed to gather evidence to be used against you, you should be allowed to gather evidence to be used to combat the officer’s evidence. You have a right to prove your innocence, if that is interfered with, the officer has violated your right to Due Process and Fundamental Fairness in the legal system.