Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Party House of the Weekend

Yes, as some of you may know Sunset Avenue (at least the northern end of it) is contiguous with UMass Southwest area where all the freshmen are packed into one pretty dense cluster.

But it is still a neighborhood made up of single family homes, some of which actually house families.

Colin McGuire, age 20, stands before Judge Mulcahy

In Eastern Hampshire District Court on Monday the two arrested house dwellers, Derek Durouchel and Colin McGuire (both 20) thought they were going to simply get an easy plea deal for the charges of "Unlawful noise, Nuisance House, Receiving Stolen Property over $250, and Procuring Liquor to person under age 21."  But Judge Mulcahy warned them that one of the charges was a felony with potential jail time.

 Derek Durouchel, age 20

So they opted to hire a lawyer and come back to Court next month.

 Page 2 continues, "stopped both Durouchel and McGuire were placed under arrest."

MADD About You

 APD:  Police Department of the Month

Thank God for Mothers Against Drunk Driving -- the voice of moral outrage over a scourge that kills far too many innocent Americans every year.

And thank God for the men and women of the Amherst Police Department who somehow manage to find the time to get many of these potential killers off our roads.

In a noon ceremony today at the Amherst Police Station, Chief Scott Livingstone accepted the "Police Department of the month" award from MADD and cited the dedication to duty exhibited by his personnel in the face of stressful working conditions.

 Town Manager John Musante was on hand to express how proud he was of the department

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Fairness of Anonymity

Daily Hampshire Gazette version of Boston Globe story

I'm sorry but I find it odd the venerable Boston Globe went with this story (in a BIG way I might add) using anonymous sources -- the parents who endured that which no parent should endure.

Yes, I'm well aware of my exceedingly high percentage of commenters who wish to remain anonymous.  I struggle almost daily with publishing some of the nasty unfair criticism they hurl at people both in the public eye and sometimes not so much in the public eye.

In America one of our fundamental legal rights is to be able to face our accuser.  The Globe allowed grieving parents to criticize the UMass Police Chief and Assistant Chief while remaining cloaked in anonymity.

Sorry but you can't have it both ways.  Let's protect the parents' privacy so as not to further hurt their already battered feelings, but simultaneously allow them to hurt others' feelings by suggesting they screwed up, causing a young man's death. Cops are human beings too.

The reason I published the young man's death certificate four months ago using the killer quote "acute heroin intoxication" is because I thought people should be aware that heroin is deadly serious business, even in our bucolic little town.

And why shouldn't police protect their sources the same way journalists do?

If I take a photo in town center of a low-level town employee inappropriately parking in a handicapped zone and they offer me details of high-level corruption in exchange for not publishing it, what the hell do you think I'm gonna do? 

The "age of majority" in Massachusetts is 18, so police were under no legal obligation to contact the parents.  And it's a bit of a leap to strongly suggest that parental intervention with a 20-year-old is guaranteed to make a life or death difference. 

Last week a UMass student killed himself in an off-campus location.  The District Attorney does not comment on private deaths in private homes, neither apparently does UMass (except they did issue a statement on the day the drug informant was found dead in his off campus apartment).

Fair enough.

But what if the Phoebe Prince case was covered up in such a typical manner?  Massachusetts would not now have stronger anti-bullying laws.

And what if none of the 100 grieving relatives of those who died in the horrific Station Nightclub fire wanted it mentioned that their loved one died in a bar?  We would not now have stronger legislation to protect the public from such a fire ever reoccurring. 

And where would gay rights and AIDS research be today if Rock Hudson had not come out in 1985 to acknowledge he had the dreaded disease?

The greater good often comes at the expense of the very few.  Or the one.

"Clearly Has Issues ... "

Attorney John W. Drake (left) Nikolai R James (right) appear before Judge Michael Mulcahy

Nikolai R. James, age 21 (who lives with his Grandfather in Leverett), appeared this afternoon in Eastern Hampshire District Court for the serious charges of Assault & Battery on two Amherst police officers, both of whom suffered broken fingers in the process.

The prosecution requested Judge Mulcahy revoke his bail from a previous case of domestic abuse he was charged with only last week in Orange District Court.   And on the two current counts brought by the Amherst Police Department, the Commonwealth requested bail of $2,500 per count or $5,000 total.

 Greenfield Recorder District Court Logs (9/29/14)

The prosecutor told the Judge Nikolai James first drew attention to himself near Hobart Lane and North Pleasant Street around 2:30 PM Saturday by jumping up and down while grabbing his groin with one hand while the other hand was holding a bottle of champagne.

The officer pulled his cruiser over and when he approached him, James shouted, "Fuck you, I'm just drinking from my open container." He then raised the bottle over his head in a threatening manner.

The officer grabbed his hand and a struggle ensued.  James managed to break free and sprinted away from the officer, who only then noticed his throbbing finger, which turned out to be broken.

Later Saturday night at 8:41 PM on Triangle Street near town center another officer spotted James, who still had a bottle in his hand.  Again Mr. James ran, only this time he fell, rolled onto his back and when the officer was reaching for him he kicked upward with both feet.

The kick landed, breaking two fingers.  James was wearing work boots at the time.

The Public Defender told the Judge his client, "has long term psych issues.  He was at the Cooley Dickinson Hospital for a month this past summer and has been diagnosed with schizophrenia disorder."

Judge Mulcahey agreed with the prosecution about revoking bail from the recent Orange Court case, but set bail at $750 for each APD assault count, or $1,500 total.  The Judge also set up a "competency hearing" to be held before Mr. James goes to trial next month.


Note to readers:  Yes, both officers were named in court proceedings but I will not publish them because even though they are police they were still victims.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Another Crazy Weekend For 1st Responders

McGuirk Stadium attracted upwards of 20,000

Yes with Umass annual Homecoming turbo charged by the return of football to a sold out McGuirk Stadium, the ever popular Apple Harvest Festival in town center, alongside the usual well attended Farmers Market, our little college town was pretty much bursting at the seams Saturday.

The Homecoming Parade started at the Haigis Mall at 11:00 AM and wound its way through most of the town center, although they took a right on Amity Street instead of finishing further south on the town common as they did last year.

AFD Engine 3 and Chief Nelson (black SUV) try to maneuver through parade

Only minutes after the parade hit the downtown a smoke alarm for a minor fire on the 10th floor of the UMass Campus Center brought a screaming response from Engine 3 at Central Station.

At first the lights flashing and horn bellowing seemed to be just part of the festivities, but when Chief Nelson in his black SUV maneuvered around the engine you could tell it was the real thing.

One of numerous calls AFD responded to at McGuirk Stadium

Crowd problems would roil AFD for the rest of the day, both at sold out McGuirk Stadium and again around midnight back at the UMass Student Union for a fire (false) alarm.

The morning started off badly for always beleaguered Amherst Police as they responded to a call from a woman at the North Amherst Mill River Recreation area reporting a Hispanic male "exposing his genitals".

The officer caught up with him but the (alleged) pervert put up a fight while making his escape.  The officer suffered a broken hand from the impact of a champagne bottle the perp was drinking from (at 9:30 AM!).

Later officers spotted the aggressor in town center and once again he put up a fight, breaking the hand of yet another officer with a kick, which will no doubt bring the charge of "assault with a dangerous weapon, a shod foot" in addition to A & B on a police officer.  

Two weeks ago another two Amherst police officers suffered debilitating injuries dealing with uncooperative assailants.  Thus a department stretched to the breaking point for lack of staffing, is now stretched even further.

Amherst Police would be kept busy for the rest of the night responding to noise complaints all over town as the summer like weather brought out foot traffic in droves. 

AFD had to respond numerous times to McGurik Stadium for a variety of emergencies above and beyond the expected overly intoxicated calls, although one ETOH case, where the young man was passed out in his locked car on such a hot day could have been a disaster.

 AFD on scene between Campus Center and Student Union near midnight for ETOH female

A more troubling incident occurred at the Student Union just after midnight after an ambulance was called for an intoxicated college aged female.  Almost simultaneously an alarm was pulled at the Student Union which was hosting a popular event that had attracted many hundreds of students.

 AFD Engines 2 & 3 at UMass Student Union around midnight last night

The evacuation sounded disorderly at best, and I detected some hesitation on the part of UMass officials to alert AFD as our fire engines had already responded in force 12 hours earlier to a fire at the adjacent Campus Center.   Plus we had an ambulance on scene just then for a drunk student.

Even more chilling,  however, it sounded like some exit doors had been locked preventing the easy flow of patrons out of the building.  Many of those that did evacuate congregated in front of the Student Union making it hard for the two fire engines to maneuver into place.

Within an hour the usual chilling scenario manifested itself as AFD had to rely on Northampton FD to come transport a drunk Amherst College student to the hospital as all five of our ambulances were busy.

Again the nightmare inducing scenario is for fire to chose that most inopportune moment to go on a feeding frenzy in, say, deep South Amherst.

Although fire is always nothing if not inopportune.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Obscuring Domestic Violence

Apparently NFL players who abuse their wives or girlfriends should move to Massachusetts if they want a better chance keeping their horrific behavior secret.

On August 30 a young lady was assaulted after midnight Saturday on Hobart Lane, located just off the UMass campus, a street predominantly populated by UMass students. 

She walked into the UMass Police Station with her brother to report the incident and they contacted Amherst Police who have jurisdiction.

No arrest was made, and that's pretty much the end of the story.

Two weeks ago, however, APD did arrest two individuals for domestic violence, and one of them even assaulted a police officer causing physical injury.  But apparently our taxpayer funded police can't ever release their names.

Every reputable journalist I know (and I know a lot) routinely redacts victims names, or even details that could lead to exposing their identity.

By making it harder to expose the (alleged) perpetrators of these despicable acts, we only encourage their continuation.

Click to enlarge/read

Friday, September 26, 2014

Shining A Light

Amherst Regional School Committee "retreat" 8/14/14

So yes, I probably should have been a jerk and required the Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee to hold a special meeting just for me -- after all, fulfilling your duties to the Open Meeting Law is important no matter how trivial the detail.

Perhaps why a legal friend of mine describes me as a "strict constructionist" (well, at least most of the time).  It would also have drawn more attention to the issue so that maybe even my friends in the diffident mainstream media would cover it.

The Regional School Committee went into Executive Session at their 8/26 meeting to rubber stamp generous raises for School Superintendent Maria Geryk and her new Assistant Superintendent Mike Morris.

It will be interesting to see the "discussion" minutes.  I honestly wonder if any of them considered the not overly melodious message these generous raises send to the rank and file, who grudgingly get sometimes less than the rate of inflation.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Alcohol Made Me Do It

Joshua Kahikina (right) Attorney Habhab (left) stand before Judge Shea

Opening his defense with "Everyone reacts differently to alcohol," the public defender told Judge Shea about an experience in college (which must have been when LBJ was President) where he offered to buy his date a drink and she responded, "You wouldn't like me when I drink."

He transitioned to his client Joshua Kahikina, age 22, standing on his right, describing him as "Hawaiian and Native American," and that he "should not be consuming alcohol at all."

Mr. Kahikina was arrested by Amherst police in the early morning hours the first weekend of March for destruction of property (vandalism to car), assault on the driver who required transport to Cooley Dickinson Hospital for a gash in his head, and when police tried to bring Kahikina under control he punched an officer in the mouth with his left hand.

Attorney Habhab told the Judge his client was "working on holistic medicine on his own" and as long as he stayed away from alcohol he's fine.  The public defender proposed his client pay restitution to ($1,400) the victim, who was in the courtroom, in exchange for a continuation without a finding for one year on all four charges.

Assistant District Attorney Russo was adamant about a "guilty" finding on the first two assault counts, describing them as "very serious".  The Judge agreed.  The public defender whispered to his client and they quickly caved. 

Judge Shea found Joshua Kahikina "guilty" on the first two charges and continued the other two for one year without a finding.  He will pay $1,400 in restitution to the victim, $50 Witness Protection fee to the courts, and be on probation for one year with unscheduled alcohol testing.

And hopefully he will never again get physical with a cop, or anyone else.

On The Ground Again

Robert Auffinger taken into protective custody by APD Wednesday 5:30 PM

On Monday morning in Eastern Hampshire District Court Robert Auffinger, age 35, told Judge John Payne that the half full glass jar he was carrying on Main Street near the VFW contained only "fruit juice".

The Judge rolled his eyes saying he had a hard time believing that, and even the Assistant District Attorney had trouble keeping a straight face.

But Auffinger insisted, saying he would be "crazy to walk around Amherst with alcohol."

The Judge reduced his fine from $300 to $100 and allowed him to do "community service" instead of cash.

Of course, considering how often he ties up our first responders he would do Amherst an even greater community service: by leaving.

 AFD had to check him out before he was taken into protective custody

DUI Dishonor Roll

Katherine Gilligan, age 19, stands before Judge John Payne; her case was continued to next month

Amherst police also arrested South Amherst resident Savana J. Paciulli, age 21, over the weekend for driving under the influence of narcotics (heroin). She was turned in by her mother who appeared in District Court on Monday morning, and had a side bar with Judge Payne.

After her daughter did not appear by the "second call," Judge Payne had a warrant issued for her arrest.

Click photo to enlarge/read 

More Blarney

Cian Davoren, age 22

This morning in Eastern Hampshire District Court before Judge Shea, one of the last remaining Blarney Blowout cases (out of 58 arrests) ended in a last minute plea deal just before the Judge was to call in a jury. 

Cian Davoren, age 22, had been arrested March 8 around 1:30 PM (close to peak time for the mayhem).  According to ADA Matt Russo he was one of between 4,000 and 5,000 college aged youth acting out of hand, and refusing to comply with police orders to disperse.

Although in Mr. Davoren's case he approached officers and was giving them grief over his sister getting a dose of pepper spray. 

Apparently chivalry is not dead among UMass students. 

But when you push your case before heavily outnumbered police officers and repeatedly ignore their request to back off, you get arrested -- chivalry or not.

The two charges (rioting and failure to disperse) were merged into one count of "disorderly conduct" and Judge Shea imposed the usual sanctions:  Case continued without a finding for one year, four months probation, $200 "restitution" fine fee to Amherst Police Department, and a letter of apology to APD.

While I have no problem with the resolution of this particular case, coming on the heels of the $160,000 Davis Report, which focused blame on the wrong party, the timing certainly could have been better.

Party House of the Weekend

Amherst police busted a party house located on Amity Street, a busy road but still a residential neighborhood, near midnight on Friday and all five of them accepted the typical plea deal offered by the prosecution:

Pay the town bylaw ticket fee ($300) and stay out of trouble for the next four months and the charge of "unlawful noise" is dismissed.

 A gaggle of offenders

As the five of them crowded around the front podium Judge Payne asked if they all live together, to which they all responded in the affirmative. 

After hearing the details presented by the prosecution, after all five agreed to the "diversion" from criminal to civil complaint, one of the braver of the five asked Judge Payne if they could have a discount since they were all "full-time college students."

The Judge paused for a moment, then asked again (while they were under oath) if they all lived at the same address.  Again they responded "yes".  So he said, $100 each. 

Thus they got off pretty easy.  Of course the Building Commissioner may have something to say to their landlord about violating the town bylaw restricting a one family house to no more than four unrelated tenants.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Expensive At The Top

If you ever wondered why Amherst Regional Public Schools have such a dramatically higher than average cost per student, $20,328 this year vs state average of around $14,000,  just look at recent employee compensation raises. 

Assistant Super Mike Morris, Superintendent Maria Geryk

Superintendent Maria Geryk goes from $147,000 to $158,00 a 7.5% raise.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Morris goes from $100,000 to $115,000 a 15% raise

Sean Mangano

Sean Mangano, Finance Director, goes from $49,429 to $95,000 a 90% raise

Talib Sadiq, School Climate Coordinator,  goes from $54,395 to $78,861 a 45% raise

Meanwhile all the King's horses and all the King's men (and women) subsist on a 2 or 3% raise. 

Yet Another Lost Weekend

AFD A5 on scene slummy Phillips Street for ETOH female with head injury 12:09 AM

Amherst Fire Department made twenty eight (28) Emergency Medical Services calls to UMass Amherst over the weekend, twenty five (25) of them for overly intoxicated "college aged youth," and quite frankly the other three traumas I have a strong suspicion alcohol was a contributing factor.

Let me repeat that:  At least 89.2% of all "emergency" runs to our flagship institute of higher education last weekend were for otherwise intelligent people who voluntarily drank themselves almost to the point of death.

AFD Engine 1 and Engine 3 on scene Theta Chi Frat 496 N. Pleasant Street 12:23 AM

And notice too just after midnight Saturday-into-Sunday morning in the midst of a flurry of ETOH runs two engines responded to an alarm at Theta Chi fraternity.  What if that had turned out to be a major structure fire?

With all our ambulances (and 80% of the on-duty crew) dealing with drunks, how effective a response could they have mustered?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"A Job Well Done"

 3/19/13 AFD loads ETOH female after dealing with combative crowd (note PD not wearing riot gear)

So yeah, I suppose you have to take a pro-police statement coming from firefighters, those other highly trained public servants, with a grain of salt.

After all, let's look at what happened last year at the Blarney Blowout, which was localized to Townhouse Apartments quad area.

When AFD was called to the scene for a young woman who had passed out from too much alcohol, she was dead in the center of a boisterous drunken crowd of well over 1,000.  And as they tried to negotiate their way through that undulating maze of humanity the unarmed firefighters, who do not wear riot gear, came under fire.

At first just snowballs, but quickly escalating to cans and bottles -- some of them full. 

APD waded into the crowd (without riot gear) to escort the firefighters out of a dangerous situation.  And not long after they marched back into that crowd to disperse them (while wearing riot gear helmets) resulting in six arrests and no injuries.
 3/9/13 Police in riot gear helmets break up Blarney Blowout at Townhouse Apartments

The key points to remember about this year's disastrous Blarney Blowout -- which shows a pattern -- are 1) police were overwhelmingly outnumbered and 2) they only used force after the largest drunken crowd anyone has ever seen in our little college town started to hurl ice, rocks, bottles and cans. 

Yes, police made 58 arrests -- a LOT more than last year.  But still no injuries

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Blarney Snuff Out

 Townhouse Apartments quad 5:15ish

Saturday was supposed to be the "Half Way to Blarney Blowout" celebration, but with the massive (bad) publicity generated by the release of the Davis Report Thursday night the downtown bars didn't dare enact it this year, and the main offenders agreed not to even open until 5:00 PM vs their regular 11:00 AM opening time allowed by license.

But that did not stop many hundreds of "college aged youth" from gathering in the usual spot this afternoon, the grassy quad inside Townhouse Apartments in North Amherst.  Last year that was the  scene of the Blarney Blowout riot, but with only 6 arrests vs this year's 58.
Beer bush

When I first saw the huge number of party goers and the exceedingly small number of police officers (half dozen) I thought about calling up Mr. Davis to have him come do a live demonstration for the Amherst Police Department on crowd management.

Hey, for $160,000 you would think a follow up demo would be in order.

Without donning riot gear, or using "chemical agents," or even raising their voices, the police sorted out the crowd in 20 minutes or so starting with the apartments playing loud music.  Once the music died the crowd got the message and slowly dispersed, leaving behind a mess.

The BIG difference between this and the Blarney Blowout of March 8, 2014?  When the officers politely asked for something, they got it.  In other words, cooperation. 

Interestingly, the kids had no problem invoking their First Amendment rights, as dozens whipped out their smart phones to record the officers, and a fewer number hurled an expletive deleted or two from the protection of their second floor apartment.

Yet some of those very same individuals questioned why I was recording the scene. Which makes you wonder, what is it they would not want parents or guardians to see?

Townhouse Apartments quad March, 2013

The Return Of EDM Mayhem

Fantazia was cancelled last year @ Mullins Center due to concerns about drug "molly"

So once again, if you needed an ambulance late last night for a real life threatening emergency (not self-induced) you would have had to await precious (many) minutes for it to arrive from a surrounding town.
 Two AFD ambulances at UMass Mullins Center last night for drunk patrons

Yes, in spite of extra staffing paid for by our friends at UMass that allowed for five fully staffed ambulances, and despite the two extra out-of-town ambulances Chief Nelson required the Mullins Center to hire ... it still wasn't enough!

AFD Engine 3 at Mullins Center last night

AFD had to use Engine 1 as an emergency medical unit to respond with trained personnel who can help stabilize the patient, but they cannot transport to a hospital.

A couple weeks back a cyclist with a serious head injury was first tended to in this way but had to wait for a Northampton ambulance to transport him to Baystate Critical Care unit in Springfield.

 South Hadley Medic 2 staging at AFD North Station last night

The Mullins Center concert had a dozen transports for ETOH (intoxicated) patrons in less than four hours and AFD handled another five (so 17 in total) not related to the concert.

Interestingly the ambulances from South Hadley and Easthampton had to stage at North Station 1.5 miles away because Mullins Center management did not like the "image" presented when they staged on site, as has been the previous custom.  

 AFD at UMass Pierpont Dorm last night for intoxicated student

This disaster comes in the wake of UMass releasing the $160,000 Ed Davis Report, a Monday morning quarterbacking of the Blarney Blowout where alcohol is cited as a major contributing factor. 

AFD Engines 1&3 at Amherst College Frost Library for drunk student last night