Posts tagged Gangsters in Blue

Rapists on patrol (#3). Officer Gary Pignato, Greece, New York

(Via Drug War Chronicle Issue #584, 8 May 2009: This Week’s Corrupt Cop Stories.)

A week ago, in Greece, New York, Officer Gary Pignato, stalker, home invader, and serial rapist, was arraigned on charges that, acting under the color of law and with the extensive legally-backed powers that his badge affords, he used the threat of violent force to coerce sex from at least two unwilling women. In at least one of those cases, before he used the threat of arrest to rape her, he first picked her out, followed her back to her home in his police car, took the opportunity to get her phone number, and then, a few days later, invaded her house without permission. After raping her he kept calling her, over and over again, until she said she would expose what he was doing.

A second woman has accused a Greece police officer of using his authority to coerce her into sex.

Gary Pignato of Hilton was arraigned Tuesday on charges of third-degree bribery of a public servant, a felony; second-degree coercion, third-degree criminal trespass and official misconduct, all misdemeanors. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Pignato goes to trial June 1 on an earlier felony count of accepting a bribe and misdemeanor counts of coercion and official misconduct stemming from allegations that he went to a Greece woman’s home in August, then later coerced her into a sexual encounter.

According to documents filed in Greece Town Court on Tuesday, a different woman accuses Pignato of similar acts.

The woman’s name was redacted in the documents and it is the Democrat and Chronicle’s policy not to name victims of sexual crimes.

In a deposition dated April 28, the victim alleges she first met Pignato during the summer of 2005 when he followed her in his marked car as she drove into her apartment complex. She alleges he introduced himself that night, gave her his card and asked for her phone number.

Then, she alleges, a few days later she was smoking marijuana at her dining room table when Pignato walked in unannounced, told her she could be arrested and lose her children for what she was doing and said we can make this go away.

She alleges Pignato said having sex with him would take care of it.

The victim alleges they made arrangements to meet the next night. She said she drove to his house in Hilton where they engaged in sex.

She alleges Pignato continued to call her seeking sex over the next few days and finally stopped calling when she threatened to find his girlfriend and tell her what he did.

In her statement, the victim said a friend convinced her to contact authorities after news broke about Pignato’s other arrest and criminal charges.

In the August case, the victim alleges Pignato visited her home during a domestic dispute, then threatened to arrest her for violating her probation if she didn’t have sex with him.

Pignato has admitted to State Police that he had sex with that woman, but said it was consensual.

. . . Pignato, who has been suspended without pay, turned himself in to State Police Tuesday afternoon. He was released from court on his own recognizance. A court date was set for June 17, but Assistant District Attorney William Gargan said the case could go to a grand jury.

— Meaghan M. McDermott, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (2009-05-06): Greece officer faces additional charges

Please note that if you, or I, or anyone else without a badge and a government uniform were to follow women around, picking out victims for their special attentions, then busted into that woman’s house without permission, threatened to harm her children, threatened to draw a gun and force her into a car and carry her off to some hellhole far away where she would be locked up against their will — if you, or I, or anyone else, I say, did all these things several times, as a threat used to coerce sex from unwilling victims, then we would be treated, by the media and by the law, as rapists of the most dangerous sort and an immediate threat to everyone in the community. You or I would be jailed with an astronomical bail or no bail at all; you or I would hit with multiple aggravated felony charges and if convicted we would spend years of our lives in maximum security prisons. But because Officer Gary Pignato of Hilton, New York happens to be a police officer — because the violence he uses is violence under color of law, and because the threats he makes against his chosen targets are threats backed up by the armed force of the State, and because the women who uses those threats of violence against are suspect women, under the special scrutiny of the police, this dangerous, heavily-armed sexual predator has been released into the community on his own recognizance, and he has been charged with nothing more than a handful of misdemeanors for the rapes and the home invasion he committed. The only felonies he’s been charged with are bribery charges; only his betrayal of the police department, not his repeated use of his government-backed authority to coerce sex from unwilling women, is treated as serious enough to merit a felony charge.

Here’s what I said about a case with several male cops in San Antonio back in December; just replace the comments about the government’s war on sex workers with comments about the government’s war on drug users.

What as at stake here has a lot to do with the individual crimes of three cops, and it’s good to know that the police department is taking that very seriously. But while excoriating these three cops for their personal wickedness, this kind of approach also marginalizes and dismisses any attempt at a serious discussion of the institutional context that made these crimes possible — the fact that each of these three men worked out of the same office on the same shift, the way that policing is organized, the internal culture of their own office and of the police department as a whole, and the way that the so-called criminal justice system gives cops immense power over, and minimal accountability towards, the people that they are professedly trying to protect. It strains belief to claim that when a rape gang is being run out of one shift at a single police station, there’s not something deeply and systematically wrong with that station. If it weren’t for the routine power of well-armed cops in uniform, it would have been much harder for Victor Gonzales, Anthony Munoz, or Raymond Ramos to force their victims into their custody or to credibly threaten them in order to extort sex. If it weren’t for the regime of State violence that late-night patrol officers exercise, as part and parcel of their legal duties, against women in prostitution, it would have been that much harder for Gonzales and Munoz to imagine that they could use their patrol as an opportunity to stalk young women, or to then try to make their victim complicit in the rape by forcing her to pretend that the rape was in fact consensual sex for money. And if it weren’t for the way in which they can all too often rely on buddies in the precinct or elsewhere in the force to back them up, no matter how egregiously violent they may be, it would have been much harder for any of them to believe that they were entitled to, or could get away with, sexually torturing women while on patrol, while in full uniform, using their coercive power as cops.

A serious effort to respond to these crimes doesn’t just require individual blame or personal accountability — although it certainly does require that. It also requires a demand for fundamental institutional and legal reform. If police serve a valuable social function, then they can serve it without paramilitary forms of organization, without special legal privileges to order peaceful people around and force innocent people into custody, and without government entitlements to use all kinds of violence without any accountability to their victims. What we have now is not civil policing, but rather a bunch of heavily armed, violently macho, institutionally privileged gangsters in blue.

— GT 2007-12-21: Rapists on patrol

See also:

Priority number one

Here’s a couple passages from a recent article in POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine on big police manhunts. It’s interesting partly because it has something to do with topics that have come up here before (note the tactics mentioned at the end). But also for other reasons. In the original article, the two sections are separated by a good 6 paragraphs; I’ve cut those out here, because it’s more interesting when you look at the statements side-by-side.

Law enforcement exists to keep society safe from criminals, which means apprehending and arresting those who would do harm.

. . .

Normal policing grinds to a near halt as all LE resources from entire regions focus on catching cop killers. This means massive searches of areas and buildings, saturation patrol, vehicle and pedestrian stops, stakeouts, checkpoints, and roadblocks.

— Robert O’Brien, POLICE: The Law Enforcement Magazine (2009-03-18): Police Manhunts. Emphasis mine.

I don’t have any complaint about these passages, at a factual level. I think it’s pretty much an accurate summary of how government police operate in that kind of situation. And, granting that it is accurate, what does that tell you about priorities in government policing? Just who and what are government police really working to protect from harm?

Is it you? Me? Society? Or somebody, and something, else?

Sidebar. If you click through to the article, you may note that there is one weak attempt, along the way, to justifying priorities like these with reference to the safety of ordinary people, outside of the government police force: Anyone willing to kill or shoot police won’t hesitate to kill anyone else—especially cops. But then there’s that especially there at the end of the sentence. Not a not just; not a not a besides; an especially. What work is that especially supposed to be doing here? Why isn’t the threat to anyone else enough of a reason? The first half of the claim doesn’t make a lot of sense — cop killers typically kill cops because of the specific threat of arrest that cops pose, and that anyone else doesn’t pose. But even if we granted it, what part of the claim is really doing the work of setting the priorities here? The alleged threat to just folks, or the threat to especially cops? And what does that tell you about government policing?

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It doesn’t take much imagination.

Here is Ron Paul, speaking about an occupation.

Imagine an Occupied America

Imagine for a moment that somewhere in the middle of Texas there was a large foreign military base, say Chinese or Russian. Imagine that thousands of armed foreign troops were constantly patrolling American streets in military vehicles. Imagine they were here under the auspices of keeping us safe or promoting democracy or protecting their strategic interests.

Imagine that they operated outside of U.S. law, and that the Constitution did not apply to them. Imagine that every now and then they made mistakes or acted on bad information and accidentally killed or terrorized innocent Americans, including women and children, most of the time with little to no repercussions or consequences. Imagine that they set up checkpoints on our soil and routinely searched and ransacked entire neighborhoods of homes. Imagine if Americans were fearful of these foreign troops and overwhelmingly thought America would be better off without their presence.

Imagine if some Americans were so angry about them being in Texas that they actually joined together to fight them off, in defense of our soil and sovereignty, because leadership in government refused or were unable to do so. Imagine that those Americans were labeled terrorists or insurgents for their defensive actions, and routinely killed or captured and tortured by the foreign troops on our land. Imagine that the occupiers’ attitude was that if they just killed enough Americans, the resistance would stop, but instead, for every American killed, 10 more would take up arms against them, resulting in perpetual bloodshed. Imagine if most of the citizens of the foreign land also wanted these troops to return home. Imagine if they elected a leader who promised to bring them home and put an end to this horror.

Imagine if that leader changed his mind once he took office.

The reality is that our military presence on foreign soil is as offensive to the people that live there as armed Chinese troops would be if they were stationed in Texas. We would not stand for it here, but we have had a globe-straddling empire and a very intrusive foreign policy for decades that incites a lot of hatred and resentment toward us.

— Ron Paul, Antiwar.com (2009-03-10): Imagine an Occupied America. Hyperlinks mine.

That’s one reality. The other reality is all this imagining doesn’t actually take much imagination. The occupation is already here; the uniforms are different, but the practices are the same. The problem here is not us — it is U.S. And if us means you and me and our neighbors, then it’s important to keep in mind that, so long as I have no way of vetoing the acts or withdrawing my material support from projects done on my dime and supposedly in my name, all of us have much more in common with the other victims of Washingtonian command and control than we do with the commanders and controllers.

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The Metro Police Beat

  • A couple of months ago, just before New Years’, [a Las Vegas Metro SWAT team rolled out to Emmanuel Dozier and Belinda Saavedra’s house in Seven Hills, at 9:30 at night (about four or fve hours after dark, around here, during the winter) in order to serve a search warrant. The cops blasted open the gate with a shotgun. They claim they announced themselves but nobody other than the police says that they heard anything other than a lot of noise. Saavedra has a three month old baby and a 13 year old daughter who were in the front of the house when this hard-to-see gang of armed strangers opened fire late at night and started forcing their way in. Saavedra called 911 as soon as she heard the gunfire; the recording of the call is now available online. Dozier got a handgun that he keeps for self-defense and fired back at the gang of strangers, apparently wounding three cops. After a stand-off, once the 911 dispatcher convinced Dozier that the men outside were in fact cops, he dropped the phone, went outside, and surrendered himself with his hands up. Here’s how he looked when he got to the police station:

    This is his mug shot from the police; he has a huge bruise and a lot of swelling around his right eye.

    Then they searched the house. They found no cocaine anywhere. Dozier is being charged with attempted murder and possession of marijuana — even though an inventory of items seized doesn’t include the marijuana or paraphenalia the police claimed to have found with their search warrant. Apparently the search warrant was to gather evidence to bust Dozier on charges of being a low-level cocaine dealer. The cops claim an undercover had already made a few purchases from Dozier; allegedly they had a business relationship with him, but they couldn’t be bothered to meet up with him one more time in order to be able to make an arrest that didn’t involve storming his house late at night while children were present. They told the media that Dozier had no above-the-table job; actually, he had a regular job at the time as a sheet-metal worker. They have not made any claims that Belinda Saavedra committed any crimes whatsoever at any point, either related to the drugs or related to the shooting; but the did make sure to force her down and rough her up after she had surrendered (since she wouldn’t calm down or shut her mouth while they shot at her house, hollered at her, took away her baby and called her a dumbass for her trouble).

    Meanwhile, the D.A. has taken steps to take away her children and charged her with abuse and neglect — even though, remember, she is not accused of any independent crimes whatsoever. The explanation is that she is being charged with abuse and neglect because she doesn’t have a job outside the house. There’s no sign that being a stay-at-home mother (while her boyfriend holds down a job as a sheet metal worker and her mother works two jobs in order to help support her grandchildren) has caused either kid any hurt or want. But the prosecutor does inform us, in the complaint, that the 13 year old was traumatized when cops started a gunfight at her house. I wouldn’t be surprised, but whose fault is that?

    The cops refuse to answer any questions about the reasons for staging a late-night SWAT raid in this case or about the discrepancies between their public statements about the suspects and the documented facts that emerged later. Dana Gentry reports that Police refuse to answer but a Metro spokesman did tell me extreme measures are necessary to guard against some liberal judge throwing out the case. Metro are liars and child abusers who routinely use maximal force in situations where they could easily have gotten anything they needed to get by other means. They also spend tremendous amounts of time, and tremendous amounts of money that taxpayers are forced to turn over to them against our will, prosecuting people who — even if everything alleged against them is true — are doing nothing more than selling a valued product to a willing customer, and who never should have been threatened or hassled by the police in the first place.

  • Las Vegas Metro made a road stop at about 4 in the morning on February 6. They suspected that the driver was drunk. He got out of the car and ran away on foot. Cops sent a helicopter to look for him and concluded (based on heat in the yard) that he was hiding out in a backyard in a nearby neighborhood. He wasn’t — turns out he was hiding in a different part of the neighborhood — but the family’s dog, a pit-bull named Coco, was. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that the cops decided that catching a DUI suspect was so incredibly urgent, and respecting other people’s private property being, after all, no concern at all to Las Vegas Metro’s important work, they would send a gang of seven cops, first to barge into the next-door neighbor’s yard without asking, and then, again without asking anyone’s permission, to jump the wall into the backyard where they thought the suspect would be. The family dog came out and confronted this gang of strangers barging into her territory; she didn’t actually attack anybody, but, after all, she was only surrounded by seven fully-grown, professionally-trained, and heavily-armed police officers; her continued existence clearly posed a threat, so they shot the dog dead. The cops took responsibility by issuing an Oops, our bad to the bereaved family — along with a self-serving claim that the cops just had to shoot the dog in self-defense. (No, they didn’t. Self-defense is no longer an excuse when you put yourself in danger by invading somebody else’s private property.) Then, public servants that they are, they left Jose Fernandez and Yurisel de la Torre by themselves to cover the $200+ bill for cremating their dead dog.

    Metro are home invaders and dog killers who routinely exercise contempt for private property, instigate violent confrontations in order to deal with trivial crimes, shoot first and ask questions later, and then excuse their use of maximal force as the necessary means to completely unnecessary ends.

  • While we’re here, I should also mention that the Nevada Crime Technology Advisory Board, representing Las Vegas Metro, the FBI, and several other law enforcement outfits from around Nevada, wants a new law passed that will allow police in Nevada to unilaterally seize the balances on prepaid debit cards without any kind of warrant — because, while they don’t have any evidence to present in any particular case, they reckon that somebody, somewhere using one of these things might turn out to be a bad guy selling drugs to willing customers — which is apparently enough of a reason to give these lying, child-abusing, dog-killing, home-invading, itchy-trigger-fingered irresponsible thugs a unilateral right to seize private citizens’ money, by arbitrary fiat, with no need for any kind of prior judicial review.

There’s a cliché around here, about how longtime locals compare the way things are now — for better or worse — with the way things used to be, back when the mob ran Vegas. The problem with this is that the mob never stopped running Vegas. The only thing that’s changed is the name of the families, and the color of the tailored suits.

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