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Former NY officer Merault Almonor sues NYPD for racial profiling June 18, 2011 Last spring, a retired NYPD officer was acquitted of felony assault charges for allegedly punching a female police officer as he and his wife were picking up their 13-year-old son. The teen, Devin Almonor, was arrested after a stop-and-frisk, and his parents argued he was the victim of racial profiling. Now, the family has filed a lawsuit against the NYPD, and the teen has spoken out about the incident: "It was surreal. I thought cops were out here to protect us. But they racially profile. They are prejudiced. I don't know what to believe anymore." Devin, now a freshman at All Hallows Catholic school in the Bronx, said he was on his way home when he was stopped by plainclothes cops on W. 141st Street. Police said he was part of a rowdy group of kids that prompted six 911 calls, and said he was arrested after he reached toward his waistband as if he had a gun—police later acknowledged he didn't have any weapons. Despite not being charged with any crime, Devin was handcuffed and held at the 30th precinct for six hours. Even worse, he alleges in the lawsuit that police officers teased him for crying, saying he was crying like a girl.

While he was sitting in a juvenile holding room, Devin's father Merault Almonor, who retired from the NYPD in 2003, ended up in a fist fight with officers, while his mother was also arrested. In their lawsuit, which names six individual cops, they argue that Devin's run-in with cops was just another example of racially motivated policing under the highly criticized stop-and-frisk program. Merault Almonor feels betrayed by the whole experience: "I can't believe my department did this to me. We are a family of cops...I used to look up to cops. After this, I lost respect for the department." BY: Ben Yakas Comment here

Former Merced correctional officer Anthony Sodini suspected of smuggling drugs for inmates June 17, 2011 A former correctional officer accused of smuggling cigarettes and methamphetamine to inmates in John Latorraca Correctional Center was back in court Thursday for a preliminary hearing. Anthony Sodini, 27, was arrested Feb. 8 by deputies from the MercedMariposa High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force. The arrest came from a sting initiated by the HIDTA, according to a sheriff's report. During a preliminary hearing, a judge typically determines whether there's enough evidence to proceed to trial. Judge Donald Proietti established there's reasonable suspicion to go to trial on the felony charges Sodini's accused of -- attempted smuggling of a controlled substance into the Latorraca facility and smuggling of cigarettes into the jail. Heather Phillips, Sodini's Fresno-based attorney, maintained that Sodini is "absolutely innocent of these charges," she said outside of the courtroom after Thursday's hearing.

Sodini is no longer employed by Merced County, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman. Sgt. Rich Howard, who runs the county's narcotics task force, testified that his agency set up the sting operation after a confidential source informed them that Sodini was smuggling the contraband. One of the informants said Sodini brought tobacco and methamphetamine into the jail -- and had been using them as payment for an inmate to "take care of," another inmate who'd assaulted one of Sodini's relatives while out of custody, according to the sheriff's report. Sodini let an inmate use his cell phone to order "drops," which Sodini would pick up from outside the jail and smuggle into the facility, according to the report. The informant said the drops would happen "every couple of days," saying Sodini was "very open with the inmates and willing to bring contraband into the jail, and he does it right out in the open and in front of the jail," according to the report. The informant also told detectives that a bag of meth, a glass pipe and a lighter were given to the inmate who was supposed to handle the retaliation against the man who'd assaulted Sodini's relative, according to the report. The informant also said inmates at the jail bragged about Sodini bringing the items into the jail, calling him their "mule." A package containing cigarettes and a small white packet of salt was prepared by detectives when the HIDTA initiated the sting operation Feb. 8, according to Thursday's testimony. When a plainclothes detective placed the package at a drop point they had learned about from an informant, detectives monitored the area and saw Sodini walk from the jail, pick up the package, and walk back toward the jail, according to testimony.

When detectives moved in, Sodini became frightened and tossed the package over a wall of the facility, according to the sheriff's report. Howard testified that during an interview, Sodini initially denied everything, but later said he knew it was wrong, but would sometimes provide cigarettes to inmates. During the investigation, Sodini denied knowingly delivering any controlled substances to inmates, but admitted that he didn't always check the packages, meaning items such as cell phones and narcotics could have been inside the packages, Howard testified. However, Sodini had turned in "drops" before to his supervisors, and during Phillips' cross-examination of Howard, he conceded that it's possible that it was Sodini's intent to turn the package over to a supervisor. An arraignment date for Sodini, who is free on bail, has been set for 10 a.m. June 30 in Courtroom 10 of the Merced County Superior Court. BY: MIKE NORTH Comment here

Two New Mexico prison guards facing auto theft and bogus checks charges June 18, 2011 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two more prison guards from the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas are facing charges related to stolen cars and bogus checks. The Albuquerque Journal says Javier Del Rivero is charged with attempt to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud while Dominic Jurado is charged with fraud. The two 22-year-old men were arrested Tuesday and released from the Metropolitan Detention Center after posting $20,000 surety bonds. It's unclear whether they have lawyers yet. Their arrests followed a weeks-long investigation by Albuquerque Police Department detectives and the federal authorities. Authorities say Del Rivero and Jurado were part of an "insurance fraud scheme" with a fellow corrections officer who was arrested last month and charged with receiving or transferring a stolen motor vehicle and two counts of forgery. Comment here

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