Friday, September 19, 2008

No shit! Dog diamond DNA gets owners in deep ...

Enough already with the DNA!
A city in Israel has begun collecting blood samples from dogs when their owners bring them in for a license.
The blood samples have been combined into a citywide data base in Petah Tikva, Israel, the New York Times reports in its Freakonomics section.
Now, in a perversion of the red light cameras some major cities have installed, the doggie police patrol the city picking up pieces of poop and analyzing the turds for tidbits of DNA.
Once they get a match, the owner is mailed a citation for failing to moop up after their mutt.
It’s hard for me to imagine that the discoverers of DNA envisioned it being used by an Israeli poop patrol.
State Rep. Thomas R. Caltagirone, smelling some funny business, is a leading proponent of anti-Puppy Mill legislation. Recently the Humane Society of Berks County seized eight dogs from an Amish farmer who was operating in defiance of state law and township codes.
U.S. Congressman James P. Gerlach has joined the fray by proposing federal legislation that would close a loophole in the law that governnnnns the operation of Puppy Mills.
But, as in all criminal justice, there may be valuable uses for doggie diamond DNA.
Imagine a portly pooch who get blamed for leaving stupendous stools on the neighbors’ lawns.
What about a dog wrongly accused of doing his dooty on the neighbors lawn.
DNA could be used to clear his name.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Roseboro case could get very Funky

Angela Funk, you may already have heard, has hired an attorney.
But did you know why?
Word is that Lancaster DA Craig Stedman has been leaning on her hard.
By leaning we mean she's been called in several times for questioningSeems to me, if you need a statement from her you call her in once, get her locked down on the facts of the case, where she was, etc... and let her go.
If you're going to try to impeach her, you only need one statement. Unless you're first line of questioning wasn't thorough.
Anyway, the point is, Stedman musn't like what he's hearing from Angela. She has hired a lawyer either because the DA has threatened to charge her, or because she's being intimidated by heavy-handedness by the prosecution team.
The preliminary hearing is about a week away.
Stedman knows he's up against one of Berks County's finest. Surely Allan L. Sodomsky is a candidate to replace Emmanuel H. Dimitriou as dean of the Berks County defense bar.
There are others we simply chose not to alienate by dubbing Sodomsky, but he's certainly on the short list.
Getting back to our story, the Denver Nugget reports that Angela knows what happened the night of the murders and Stedman wants to squeeze it out of her prior to the preliminary hearing.
Also, Angela is a very physically fit woman as evidenced by this photo of her taken during a recent volleyball game.
Michael Roseboro proponents are floating the idea that she might have been lurking in the darkness. When Michael chickened out and didn't tell Jan he was leaving her, she took matters into her own hands.
How hard would it be for one woman to blitz-attack another woman, konk her on the head with an as-yet-to-be-found weapon, toss her into the pool and disappear into the night.
Maybe Angela, tired of waiting for her rich lover to leave his wife, stole the jewels as payment for the sexual favors she had granted Michael. The missing jewelry is a nagging factoid.
Could have been a straight out robbery, a blitz attack by Angela, or Michael could have taken the ring and other items to make it look like a robbery. That's one of the oldest tricks in the book.
My money is on Angela. After living right down the street from it all those years she was now so close to it she could taste it. She was tired of waiting and she took matters into her own hands.
Everybody who knows Michael has said they don't see him killing Jan. He's not the type. Maybe that's what was driving Angela nuts.
In any event, we'll find out at the prelim what Stedman has been asking Mrs. Funk.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Don't blow by that sheriff's car

Blowing by a marked county sheriff's car on the local highway because they can't or won't enforce traffic laws will soon be urban legend, at least in Reading and the rest of Berks County, PA.
Berks County Sheriff Eric J. Weaknecht will announce Monday, Sept. 15, that he has authorized the almost 100 sworn personnel in his department that they can now enforce the traffic laws of the Commonwealth in the county.
The sheriff's department has 25 vehicles that daily roam the county serving traffic warrants, subpoenaes and other court papers.
In the past, you could speed right past one of Route 422 or you could run a red light or blow a stop sign with one of them behind you and they'd couldn't do a thing.
"We got tired of having to sit there in a marked unit in full uniform as people committed traffic violations and flipped us off," one deputy said.
I remember hauling ass for the Jersey Shore on Route 422 or the Schuylkill Expressway. I'd be cruising down the left lane and see a marked unit in the right hand lane doing 55 or 60 mph. I'd creep up, and creep up until I could read the markings on the side of the vehicle and if it said sheriff, no matter from what county, I'd cruise right past them at 65 or 70 mph.

I've never been a speed demon but I've always taken comfort that I had learned that one little trick as a teenager, from who I don't know, and have used it whenever the opportunity has presented itself.
Now I happen to live in the one county where it's no longer true.
I may be lying to you. I haven't checked every county. I know Allegheny County sheriff's have a detective squad, or a countywide police force, or something like that, but around here no sheriff's department is enforcing the traffic laws, until now that is.
Still, grouse as I will, everyone seriously concerned about law enforcement in the city and county knows that having another 80 or so lawmen out roaming the streets with the power to bring the hammer down on evil doers is a good thing.
I just hope the deputies don't go overboard and start flexing their new found powers.
Sure they had the legal authority to arrest people for violations committed in their presence for a long time, but they never used the power until Monday.
It'll also be interesting to see what happens when deputies start having to show up at hearings in district courts around the county. Can you say overtime?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Constable probe widens to include court staff

It was bound to happen.
Sources now say in addition to at least three constables facing criminal charges, a court secretary also has been caught in the Web of deceit.
As the story goes, the constable makes nice with the court staff. In the case of one court, the constables are required by the judge to donate a couple hundred dollars per year to buy Christmas presents and other gifts for the court secretaries.
The premise was because they do all the paperwork for the constabulary.
Here's the real reason:
A constable makes nice with a court secretary and she sets aside tickets for the constable.
Innocent and unwitting civilians come in to voluntary pay a ticket that has been sent to the court as a scofflaw for failure to pay. The person, alarmed by the letter from the court, dashes up to the window to pay and avoid a warrant being issued for them.
The secretary tells the civilian they are going to be charged court fees. The court fees are actually the process serving fee paid to the constable as if the constable had personally contacted the civilian and told them to come to court. Each time a warrant is issued, a constable is assigned to the warrant. If a different constable serves the warrant, the court staff changes the warrant to indicate who served the warrant.
The civilian doesn't know any better and just wants to pay the fee and get the hell out of there and back to work.
All the walk-in tickets the secretary collects that day sit on her desk until her favorite constable comes in and she gives them to him to sign. She then goes into the court computer and changes the computer record to show her buddy's name on the ticket so that her buddy and not the original constable assigned to the ticket gets paid for it.
When the constable signs the ticket he's swearing under penalty of perjury that he was assigned the warrant.
The constable then submits that paperwork to the Berks County Controller's office for payment.
Constables are elected officials and don't earn a salary.
Every penny they get they must earn by performing services for the court.
Unless of course, they marry a court secretary and get her to set aside parking tickets for them all day and show up at the end of the day and rake in the cash.
That's one way to earn $250,000 per year.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

McCoy Boys Vet Veep Candidate Sarah Palin

For any of you Republicans out there who were worried about U.S. Sen. John McCain’s pick for vice president you can rest easy.
It appears that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had been vetted by two Berks Countians long before she started her quest for the second highest office in the land.
Staff Sgt. Nick McCoy of Mount Penn, a decorated hero and wounded Iraq War veteran, met Palin at his unit’s redeployment ceremony last December in Alaska.
Palin came out to show her support for the troops and made a real impression on Sgt. McCoy and his dad, Scott McCoy, also of Mount Penn, who went along for the trip to the Great White North.
“She seemed pretty sharp and very down to earth,” Nick said.
When he shook hands with the vice presidential candidate to be, Nick sensed she really wanted to be there.
“From what I remember she told me she had a son who was new to the Army and that he was in basic training at the time and I think I’ve heard since then that he is getting ready to deploy,” Nick said. “She told me she wanted to come out and welcome us back and thank us for our service to the country.
“She was really proud that our unit was from Alaska and that we were back home,” McCoy said.
Scott McCoy said he also was taken by the attractive and affable 44-year-old governor.
“My first impression was ‘Wow!’” he said. “She’s good looking but she’s also really got her stuff together.”
Scott said he was surprised when he learned that Palin was about five months pregnant when they met.
“You could have fooled me,” he said. “I guess some women don’t show it as much as others.”
Scott said he had a few minutes to talk privately with Palin and he was impressed by her sincerity and demeanor.
“She told me she had a son in the Army,” Scott said. “She was very personable and respectful and even got a little emotional with the guys.”
Scott said Nick called him as soon as he heard Palin had been chosen as McCain’s running mate in the November general election.
Both McCoys said Palin didn’t have to win them over.
“I was going to vote for McCain anyway,” Scott said.
“I planned to vote for the Republican, whoever it was,” said Nick.
Nick, who lost both legs below the knee while serving in Iraq, has been recuperating at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Tx. He’s nearly completed his recovery and while he was getting back in shape and getting used to prosthetic legs, he was also refitting a Dodge Ram Mega Cab with a wheelchair lift.
“I’m going to drive up to my grandmother’s place in Delaware and take in the race at Dover,” Nick said. “I haven’t driven that far so I went out camping last weekend by myself and everything went well.”
Since he is nearly well, Nick spends a lot of his time visiting with wounded soldiers just back from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nick was in a coma for weeks when he got back. In addition to the loss of his legs, he also had to cope with broken bones, burns and other injuries.
Now he’s getting ready to drive himself home from Texas.
Seems like, I don’t know, a miracle?
n Contact columnist Dan Kelly by calling 610-371-5040 or at

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What the heck is boilo?

Boilo - Traditional Yuletide drink of the Coal Region
Boilo is traditionally made during the Christmas and New Year's holiday. It's great on those cold winter nights. Cheers!
Boilo recipe #1: Crock pot style
2 oranges (med-large size)
2 lemons
1 small box raisins (about 1 1/2 ounces)
8 oz honey
12 oz whiskey (or more, to taste). Use Four Roses, or Seagrams 7, or something similar. At least 80 proof (40% alcohol).
1/2 to 1 teaspoon each of any or all of these spices: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Caraway seed, Anise seed

Make this in a crock pot. It's easier than cooking on the stove and much less likely to overcook or scorch. For the quantities shown here, a small (1.5 quart) crock pot will do.
Peel the oranges and lemons. Cut up the fruit and squeeze them into the crock pot. A garlic press works, or you can use some kind of juicer or fruit squeezer if you have one. Put the remaining fruit pulp into the crock pot as well.
Add the raisins, honey, and spices. Stir.
NOTE: do not add whiskey yet!
Start the crock pot and let the mixture cook for about 2-4 hours. Stir occasionally. It's done when the fruit pulp gets "cooked-down".
Strain into a pitcher. Mash down the fruit in the strainer to get all the liquid. NOW add the whiskey to the pitcher and stir. If you cook the whiskey, even for a short time, the alcohol will start to evaporate (and who wants that to happen??). Taste, and add more whiskey to your liking.
Serve hot in shot glasses, espresso cups, or coffee mugs. After the first round, each individual serving can be heated in the microwave.
This recipe makes about 12 ounces of "virgin" boilo. Add 12 ounces of whiskey to this and you get 24 ounces of coal region nectar, enough for 12-18 servings.
Boilo recipe #2: Stovetop style
1 bottle whiskey (any relatively cheap, blended whiskey will do)
Several oranges. Quantity depends on how much you wish to make. Use at least 4.
Same number of lemons
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups of honey
2 cinnamon sticks

Boilo is traditionally made during the Christmas and New Year's holiday. It's great on those cold winter nights. Beware, this can knock you for a loop! Cheers!
Peel the oranges and lemons and cut into quarters. Squeeze the fruit into a pot, then throw in the remaining fruit pulp. Add some water (some people use ginger ale). Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the whiskey. Cook everything at a slow simmer, stirring constantly. This will take about 15-20 minutes. If necessary, add orange juice and a bit more water. The color should be a yellow-orange. Don't overcook; the name is misleading. You don't want to boil this. Then slowly stir in the whiskey. Be careful - this can catch fire if splashed on the stove. Keep adding whiskey to taste. It's not uncommon to use the whole bottle. Simmer for just a few more minutes once the whiskey is added.
Strain and serve hot in shot glasses (a regular glass may crack). Drink in sips. Individual servings can warmed later in a microwave.
Everyone's recipe uses pretty much the same ingredients, but the quantities on each vary greatly. You'll have to experiment to find what suits your taste. See also a traditional Lithuanian recipe.

Constable Probe about to boil over

- I was down by the river cooking up a batch of boilo when the call came through.

It was from one of my sources saying that something was about to break on the constable probe.

The constable probe is a super secret investigation into how Berks County constables are making scads more money than constables in other counties.

They all got the same pay raise in 2007.

Yet three Berks constables made $250,000 in 2007. No other constables even came close.

I've been writing about the constables since 2004 when I got one of those phone calls reporting that a constable was going around the district courts telling everyone he made more than $120,000 that year.

I checked with county Controller Sandy Graffius and she said she would check but assured me that it was unlikely.

She called back flabbergasted and told me to get up to her office because apparently my tipster had good information.

Graffius showed me the volumes of paperwork constables are required to submit to get paid for their work.

Constables typically transport prisoners from the county jail to district courts, provide security in the district court offices, serve summonses and other court papers and arrest scofflaws for unpaid parking and other violations. They also conduct evictions and serve papers in landlord-tenant disputes.

A fee is assigned and paid for each one of the services performed.

So, I asked, how does a constable make $250,000 per year?

Delaware County Constable Jack Esher, president of the Pennsylvania State Constables Association, said a constable working for a busy court can make a lot of money. But he admitted $250,000 was unheard of.

"They're not making it arresting people," Esher added.

Esher explained that when a constable arrests someone on a warrant, they have to bring them to district court and have them arraigned, fingerprinted and then taken before a judge to determine if they will be released on bail or imprisoned pending further court action.

"That all takes time," Esher said. "If you're arresting people you can't be doing something else at the same time."

For one thing, to make $250,000 you have to submit a ton of paperwork.

A 2006 audit by Graffius' staff turned up no evidence of wrongdoing and left me feeling like a blind dog in a meat locker.

If you know where to look, sources say, you can determine whether constables are double-billing for services.

One surefire way to catch cheating, I'm told, is to compare the sign-in sheets at Berks County Prison with the constable cost sheets.

If two constables submit cost sheets to Graffius claiming they both transported prisoners from court to the prison but only one of those constables signed in at the prison, it's a red flag.

I've been knocked as having it in for the constables.

The truth is that some of them are their own worst enemy. They've been telling people stuff they probably wouldn't tell their lawyers.

Some constables, sick of the funny business, have been telling the probers where to probe next.

But it's all very hush-hush right now.

Just like the location of my next batch of boilo.

Action coming in constable probe

The ongoing investigation into Pennsylvania State Constables working in Reading, PA, and Berks County, is about to produce results.

Word has it that at least one Constable has been offered a plea agreement and has been given the Labor Day Weekend to mull the offer.

Accepting the plea agreement would mean resigning the elected state law enforcement post and losing out on what has become a gravy train in recent years.

What once had been a low-paying, low-prestige job is now the highest paid elected post in the Commonwealth. Three Berks constables made $250,000 in 2007. That's more than Gov. Ed Rendell, the attorney general, judges, you name it. Nobody made more than a Berks constable last year.

Nothing will happen until after Labor Day.

So, relax and enjoy the long weekend and tune in here next week for updates.

You can also follow me as Geidas on Twitter, the instant messaging type social networking site that allows me to post breaking news immediately to the web and to your cell phone or other device.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Turnabout is fair play

This story is funny on a number of levels.
Basically, a 28-year-old man was beaten within an inch of his life after he began attacking his wife in a final act of domestic violence.
The man's neighbors, so frustrated by years of caterwauling and banging off walls, intervened and as many as eight of them beat the abuser into submission.
The beating took place in a public housing project, the Glenside Homes in Reading, Berks County, PA.
The man was taken to Reading Hospital where he later died.
Neil Thompson of the 500 block of Avenue A suffered multiple injuries in the attack early Saturday, Aug. 23, and did not regain consciousness.
Thompson was assaulting his girlfriend in his home about 3:15 a.m. when as many as eight people entered the residence and began to beat him.
No weapons were used to an autopsy has been scheduled to determine the exact cause of death.
There have been no arrests.

Back from the boobyhatch

I had been voluntarily incarcerated against my will in an upscale nervous hospital in Berks County, PA, when I received a dispatch from my colleagues advising me that things in Reading, PA, were going to hell in a hand basket.
They had the official announcement that a Doubletree Hotel and conference center, complete with its own parking garage, was coming to Penn Street. It'd be located across the street from the beautiful Sovereign Center.
They also announced valuable seed money had been set aside for the Goggleworks Apartments, across Second Street from the ever popular Goggleworks Center for the Arts.
Then they opened the R/C IMAX theatre complex at Second and Washington streets and the shit hit the fan.
Some genius in the marketing department had the clever idea of offering $1 admissions for the entire four-day weekend.
Well the natives got in there knowing they'd probably never be back and went apeshit. Throwing food, picking fights, letting their kids run around screaming and playing tag in the theaters while the movies were playing.
When the theater people try to expel the offenders they refused to leave and picked a fight with Reading's finest who were stationed in big numbers right outside the movie house. They had the mobile command center there for chrissakes!
The cops had to taser two kids and sprayed a mob of them with pepper spray.
What a bunch of ignorant slobs.
It was a disgrace.
A couple of short-sleeved assistant theater managers got fired in the wake of that debacle I'll tell you.
But that's peanuts compared to what's been going on with the Pennsylvania State Constables and how they've been raping the taxpayers for the past many years.
That's what really made me pull the IVs out and get back to work.
I'm told that three constables will be charged with theft on Wednesday, Aug. 27, and that the probe is ongoing.
The hope is, some of the constables, facing jail time and public humiliation, not to mention losing their elected positions, will roll over on the district judges who are masterminding the crimes.
This is not to say that all constables and district judges are bad. Far be it from me to utter that truth.
The question also remains as to the resolve of the investigators and their bosses. Do they have the stomach for a probe that touches on some of the biggest fundraisers in the Democratic party.
Let's see what unfolds on Wednesday and take it from there.