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Cody Wilson Caught

At this point, there is nothing that looks remotely defensible about Cody Wilson’s actions after he (reportedly) paid a minor for sex if the details in this story are correct.

At home, police say that he got on a plane to Taiwan at some point after he was tipped off by a friend of the minor that she was cooperating with a police investigation into the incident. Even if the trip was pre-planned, this seems like an unwise choice to make the trip if you’ve got any chance at defending yourself.

But now we learn that he checked in to one hotel and promptly left, decided to rent a studio for 6 months, but then didn’t show to get the keys when he realized that he was wanted in Taiwan, too. (We may not have an extradition treaty with them, but that doesn’t mean they are under obligation to let you roam free. A country with no treaty can still arrest you and turn you over to the US, it’s just a matter of whether they want to do so or not.) They eventually found him in a totally different hotel.

The report indicates that his passport was cancelled, so Taiwan could pick him up on immigration charges once he was found. He can now be deported to the U.S.

None of this will look good during a trial. Depending on the details of the encounter with the girl he is accused of soliciting, he could have potentially mounted somewhat of a defense that she lied about her age repeatedly. If he could prove it or raise a reasonable doubt that he actually knew her age, then there’d be a chance at a plea bargain or maybe an easier sentence. But fleeing to a foreign country with no extradition treaty and going so far as to rent an apartment? Yeah, that’s not going to go over well and will probably kill his chances at being released in advance of the trial since he’s now a demonstrated flight risk.

Golden State Killer DNA Use – Getting Past the Media Hype to Potential Legal Issues

First, let’s establish that I am not an attorney. I talk to lots of attorneys and even attend law seminars from time-to-time, but I have never studied law in any meaningful way. My post on this matter is because I have a gut feeling the use of DNA searching in the case of the Golden State Killer is probably new territory.

Second, let’s establish that though I’m not a geneticist, I am experienced enough in genetic genealogy that I can tell you mainstream media reporting on DNA testing is as terrible as it is on guns. Most reporters know absolutely nothing about the types of DNA that can be tested in the consumer market, how matching happens, what the policies on use are with those sites, and the limitations of DNA. DNA doesn’t lie, but it’s sure as hell misinterpreted – often. Add to the problem of reporters not knowing anything about it the fact that most of the people in front of the cameras from the police department and the district attorney also know nothing about it, and you’ve got a recipe for terrible reporting.

Based on some of the most detailed reporting that didn’t come out until late last night and this morning, the investigators did not use a commercial DNA testing company you commonly see advertised. In the US, the big ones are Ancestry.com, 23andMe, FamilyTreeDNA, and MyHeritage. Three out of the four confirmed in statements when the media started getting things wrong that they in no way cooperated with any criminal investigation with their DNA databases. While the fourth one didn’t issue a statement, the police didn’t use their private databases, either. All of them have pretty solid policies not cooperating without a warrant.

However, because these companies all offer different tools, many of which are useful in their own ways to us genealogists, but you can’t compare to someone who tested at another site, some folks built a website called GedMatch that’s sort of like a public open source comparison tool. It’s database is made up of people who have taken their raw DNA data from other companies that run the tests and upload them to be compared to each other. Why? Well, in cases like my grandfather’s, he only tested at Family Tree DNA before he died. If a great match tests at Ancestry, we can’t compare the two kits except at Gedmatch. (Technically there are a few alternatives now, but there weren’t for a long time. Gedmatch became the place to do it.)

The police created a raw data format that looked like one of the major testing company’s raw data forms based on the DNA sample recovered from a crime scene. Using that form, they uploaded it to Gedmatch as though it was a sample from one of the major testing companies. There’s nothing in Gedmatch’s terms that says you can’t “spoof” a major company format with data obtained elsewhere. The entire purpose of the site is to compare across testing platforms.

BUT, where things get interesting is that when you upload a kit at Gedmatch, you must answer a question:

Please acknowledge that any sample you submit is either your DNA or the DNA of a person for whom you are a legal guardian or have obtained authorization to upload their DNA to GEDmatch: Yes or No

Now, the officer who uploaded it 1) is not the source of the DNA, 2) is not the legal guardian of the suspect, and 3) does not have the authorization of the DNA sample provider to upload. Yet, s/he uploaded it anyway by directly misrepresenting his/her status as the legal representative with permission of the source of the sample.

Only with that misrepresentation did they find enough information to focus in on one subject and follow him around to find a source of publicly disposed DNA to run a direct test against the original sample using the traditional law enforcement test (CODIS).

Is the misrepresentation of who has permission to use a website under specific terms a violation on the part of police? I think it’s a reasonable argument to make, though I don’t know how much precedent we have in this area of law because we’re talking technology that most previous cases don’t really cover.

Now, GedMatch was also recently used to solve a Jane Doe victim status. I tend to believe that there’s a more solid case that police are legal representatives of an unidentified deceased victim in their “custody” than they are over a possibly still living suspect’s DNA sample. That said, any law enforcement use of the database makes people, understandably, uneasy. There have been calls for years for law enforcement to consider an opt in GedMatch-like database in order to solve John/Jane Doe cases with clear terms and conditions for those who opt in. Plenty of people are willing to help in those cases, and even in searches for criminals. But the authorities didn’t give people that option, they held themselves out as representatives of criminal suspects to gain access to a database.

In the context of guns, Sebastian & I figured it is most closely represented with this type of analogy:

A plainclothes cop shows up to your gated, private gun club and tells a board member that he has a document attesting that he’s a representative & there with permission of your club’s Membership Chairman and is just looking some things up on his behalf without ever disclosing that he’s law enforcement. He is allowed into the gated club only based on this form that says he really is representing your Membership Chairman, even though the officer really plans to investigate your Membership Chairman on a case not related to your club or its business. When he comes in, the officer looks through the guest log and sees a name he recognizes as similar to a felon known to him. He uses the information on the guest log to start following around your Membership Chairman to see if he’s allowing a felon to use his firearms. When it turns out to be the case, the cop sweeps in to make an arrest. Now technically the arrest is based on what he witnessed. But he never would have been following him if not for what he saw when he entered the gated property by falsifying documents that claim he was the Membership Chairman’s representative and was there with his permission. Is this a fruit of the poison tree problem?

I don’t know exactly how this will all play out, and I don’t know enough law to know if this is absolutely a violation. What I do know is that it violates ethics of the genetic genealogy community. While I understand that GedMatch doesn’t really have the same “gates” restricting access to its database as the commercial companies, the fact that they aren’t addressing the very real issue of how the cops represented themselves in order to be matched against others bothers me. That question in their upload process either means something or it doesn’t, and GedMatch isn’t taking it seriously. I made our kits private in the meantime.

As a final thought on DNA & crimes. I think it’s important to remember that as much as guns are misrepresented and therefore misunderstood, so is DNA.

DNA alone can tell you remarkably little without extra context and information. It doesn’t lie, but it is sure as hell misunderstood and treated as inappropriately damning. Consider that California was going to put a man away for life for a murder he absolutely did not commit based on the officer’s lack of detailed analysis in considering how DNA might have appeared on a victim. I mean we all “know” that if you find someone else’s DNA under a victim’s nails and they struggled, then that must be your assailant. It’s what tv tells us! Except what if the EMT called to the scene reuses a pulse oximeter on the victim that was used hours before on a man he took to the hospital? That was an important detail that nearly cost a man his life. Even in genealogy, something as obvious as a parent/child match? If you don’t know whether that parent has an identical twin, then you don’t have all of the information you need to make a sound conclusion.

It’s complex. And that’s why the media will f*ck it up almost every time they report on it – just like guns and gun owners.

UPDATE: The NYT has a decent article on the ethics & possible legality issue. A law professor who professes to know about DNA searches says there may be questions about the legality of the evidence. I’m going to assume that’s why they went after the other samples so that any warrants were technically issued on those grounds rather than the legally dubious GedMatch grounds.

Not Hysterical Piece on Rifles

Leave it to the local news to have someone write a not completely hysterical piece explaining the type of rifle used in Sunday’s shooting. Of course, then other articles they are running from other reporters specifically contradict the facts reported in this story – many using the “AR means assault rifle” crap. I thought the MSM told us that one benefit they offered was layers of editorial oversight. So why run a factual piece that explains the AR myth isn’t at all true, but then turn around and work that uses the AR references in a way to directly contradict yourselves?

Like any high profile incident, we’re not really going to comment until more facts are released. It seems there’s a great deal of information not released yet, and that may or may not raise questions about enforcement of laws. I will admit that based on bits that appear to have been confirmed, it is troubling that Texas seemingly approved this guy as a “certified” security guard when he had a conviction for assaulting other people. It seems to me that even unarmed security have some level of “authority” over others in their place of employment, and those with a history of assaulting others may not be the best fit for those jobs. (Or maybe they are a perfect fit in some jobs like at sketchy bars, but probably not for the family water park where he was apparently approved to work since the shooter’s conviction was for assaulting his own family.) But again, I also acknowledge that the timeline or other details may change rapidly.

What does appear to be shaping up is that this shooter was caught because of the efforts of an armed citizen and another regular guy with a truck willing to risk their lives to put an end to this shooter’s ability to do harm. They couldn’t save those inside the church, but they did what they could to make sure he didn’t hurt anyone else.

He’s Right, You Know

From Joe Huffman:

On the evening of 14 July 2016, a 19 tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, resulting in the deaths of 86 people[2] and the injury of 458 others.

Planning matters a lot more than weapon choice. Nearly all mass killers plan their attack, but for some of them mental illness is limiting. The most dangerous killers are the ones who aren’t crazy, as it seems this guy was not.

Las Vegas Shooting

Much like Virginia Tech, where Bitter had a cousin on campus that day, this mass shooting hit close to home. Bitter’s brother is in the music business and his act was on stage when the shooting started. We have gotten word that he is OK.

Initial reports are almost always wrong, but having seen video, it does indeed to appear to be some kind of fully automatic rifle. The cyclic rate didn’t sound fast enough to me to be a 5.56 machine gun, so I’m guessing something larger. The cyclic rate sounded consistent, so I’m guessing not a crank [UPDATE: I’m seeing a lot of speculation about cyclic rate being inconsistent, but it sounded pretty damned consistent to me. In the one video, you can hear the sonic boom of the bullet a half second or so before you hear the report. I think that’s being mistaken by some people as two separate firearms. Other videos have echoes which mask the consistency.] I’m doubtful of a bump mechanism, since he was landing hits.

He was firing for a good 9-10 seconds based on some video I saw. A 75-round AK drum should be empty in 7.5 seconds. What did this guy get his hands on? It’s not like there’s a huge black market for belt feds. Whatever he had, the nut job apparently planned the attack in great detail. One article I read suggested he had put up cameras to detect when the police were closing in. With enough planning and motivation, he could have gotten anything. This guy doesn’t appear to have been a whack job, by all accounts. So what motivated him? What made him snap?

I don’t know, and we probably won’t know for days, but one thing I can promise you is that you and I will be blamed for this in the media. We will be the ones held to account and the ones punished.

UPDATE: I’m seeing that this shooter apparently was a pilot and owned two planes. He also lived in a $400,000 house. This means he was in a socioeconomic bracket where he could reasonably afford legal machine guns. He also had a clean record. Be ready for that possibility.

Deadly High-Capacity Magazine

I guess this guy heard reports of deadly high-capacity magazines from gun control advocates and politicians, and took it to the next level.

A man tried to rob a pizza place on Ocean Boulevard Tuesday night by pointing a gun’s magazine at the employee, but the employee slapped it out of the suspect’s hands, according to a Myrtle Beach Police report.

Apparently that ejected two rounds out of the magazine, which the robber quickly scooped up and beat a retreat. Whatever that dude was on must be one hell of a drug.

Indictment in Philando Castile Shooting

Something smelled fishy about this since day one, and it looks like a Grand Jury agreed. These days I’m always reluctant to jump on bandwagons, because it’s harder and harder to discern what really happened, and what the motivations are of people driving the bandwagon. So to some degree you have to fall back to having faith in the justice system to do the right thing. The problem is I had a hard time typing that with a straight face.

In this case, it may be that the officer made a horrible mistake, and he will have to explain himself before a jury, just like any of us would under the same circumstances. Remember Prof. Joe Olson’s report about his encounter with this department. I will hope that all the facts come out at trial, that the jury is wise and objective, and that justice will be done. Mr. Castile deserves no less.

Attorney General Convicted on ALL Charges

Pennsylvania’s proud first female Attorney General hasn’t been able to practice law for months. Tonight, she was found guilty of perjury, obstruction, and other counts of abusing her official position in order to exact illegal revenge on an opponent.

Did I mention that the Clintons are huge supporters?

It shouldn’t be surprising that Kathleen Kane’s attorney indicates that she’s still not going to make any move to resign. The woman won’t give up, despite widespread calls from her party to resign. She has not yet been jailed, but she must come back to court tomorrow to surrender her passport, and she was issued a warning that any hint of retaliation against witnesses will put her behind bars immediately.

Thinking About Safe Storage Laws

Police are charging the New Jersey woman who lost a child when her older child accidentally shot the other one playing with mom’s pistol. In her case, she was keeping the pistol illegally. Safe storage laws are meant to punish parents who do things like this. Any time a law is proposed to deal with a social issue it’s worth asking:

  • Is justice served by this law? This woman already lost one kid. If she goes to jail the other kids ends up in the state foster care system. Now in this case, given the criminal history of this woman, maybe the kids are better off in state care. But is that always the case? Is the behavior in question so bad that it’s worth breaking up families over?
  • Is the law going to deter the irresponsible behavior? I’ve often argued that in most cases when it comes to accidental shootings (which are actually pretty rare) the kinds of people who need to be deterred are the kinds that won’t be deterred. The fact is that most of the people reading this don’t need a law to tell them to do what is necessary to keep firearms secured from kiddies and other irresponsible persons. It’s difficult for me to believe that the potential loss of a child is not more of a deterrent than the law.
  • Is the law enforceable? As with most laws regulating personal behavior in the home, enforcement is only going to occur when the police become aware of a violation, which is only going to happen after an accidental shooting, the very thing the law is meant to deter.

Generally speaking, I’m skeptical of any law that controls people’s behavior in their own homes. My issue with safe storage laws in general has been:

  • They usually apply a one-size-fits all solution. There are a lot of ways to secure firearms. Some solutions, like trigger locks, are outright dangerous for someone who is uneducated on how to use one.
  • They usually don’t exempt households without children. I have no kids, and while I have a safe to secure my firearms from burglars, when I’m home we have unsecured firearms, and there’s no risk to either of us with that.
  • They are not enforceable, and the people they will be enforced against are already dealing with the loss of a child. When a child is accidentally poisoned (which happens far far more often than firearms accidents), we don’t generally charge the parent for leaving prescription drugs, drain cleaner, etc unsecured. We don’t charge pool owners for accidental drownings (also happens far more often than firearms accidents) if they left the gate open.

I think incidents like these are best left as torts when multiple parties are involved, and something for child services to investigate, and dealt with through family court if necessary. I’m not sure charging a mom who just lost a kid with a felony is really justice.

Illegal Immigrant Attempts To Kill Trump

Probably not the nationality you’d expect though. Several reports say he attempted to grab a police officer’s handgun that was not secured, but initial reports are often full of unsubstantiated details.

OF course, this was a nominally gun-free zone, and the guy’s plan relied on the fact that it was being enforced by people with guns…

(My local media are playing up the fact that the attempted shooter was a resident of Hoboken for a while. Why that has any relevance, I’m not sure).

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