[Plura-list] Maine's drunken, thieving, bumbling, child-porning public defenders; America's wild hog "pig bomb"

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Tue Oct 6 12:34:06 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Maine's drunken, thieving, bumbling, child-porning public defenders:
The cruelty is the point.

* America's wild hog "pig bomb": Hybrid vigor is a hell of a drug.

* This day in history: 2010, 2015, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


🩲 Maine's drunken, thieving, bumbling, child-porning public defenders

Maine's years under the racist, lying, corrupt governor Paul LePage
(2003-11) weren't just a lost decade - they were a decade of looting and
starving the state and its capacities, so that, a decade later, Maine is
still a laggard, its institutions a national disgrace.

Front and center: Maine's public defender system - or rather, its lack
of one. Maine is the only state in the union without a Public Defender's
Office. Instead, they pay private attorneys rock-bottom prices to
represent indigent Mainers facing criminal charges.

Perhaps you've heard horror stories about overworked, underresourced PDs
in other states. They're true. But compared to Maine's system, even the
worst PD's office in the union is a white-shoe law-firm of the sort
you'd expect to find repping Trump or Epstein.

Maine's rapsheet and the evidence against it are laid out today in a
devastating Propublica/Main Monitor piece by Samantha Hogan: "Maine
Hires Lawyers With Criminal Records to Defend Its Poorest Residents."


Hogan reveals a system whose lawyers are child pornographers,
fraudsters, sexual harassers, flashers, drunks, and felons, some of whom
can't even visit their clients in jail because doing so would violate
their probation.

The system came about after Maine lawmakers under LePage passed
"tough-on-crime" bills that turned everyday misdemeanors into felonies,
packing state courts with people facing hard time.

Simultaneously, Maine's austerity-crazed state-house choked the court's
budget and put the state judicial branch in charge of a single (wildly
inadequate) pot of money to pay both prosecutors AND defenders.

This system was so untenable that anything else looked good by
comparison. That "anything else" is the Commission on Indigent Legal
Services, run by John Pelletier, a LePage-era ideologue who insists
there is nothing wrong with his Commission.

He claims the beauty of his system is that it lets poor defendants hire
the same lawyer they'd get if they could afford one.

Since the Commission's founding, 161 Maine lawyers have been "disbarred,
suspended or reprimanded for misconduct."

Pelletier hired a quarter of them.

Now, Pelletier might say that this system is working great. After all,
his own office has produced no documentary evidence of problems with it!
But perhaps that has something to do with the fact that the system has
no oversight mechanism?

The state legislature understands that something is horribly wrong here
- if the gross miscarriages of justice weren't sufficient evidence, then
perhaps the runaway billing fraud convinced them. They told Pelletier he
needed to hire eight more staffers. He hired two.

The legislature has continued to investigate Pelletier's Commission,
calling him to testify to a bipartisan body. Pelletier "repeatedly
provided inaccurate or incomplete information to the commissioners."

Meanwhile, here's a sampling of some of the defenders Pelletier has hired:

* Peter Mason: repeatedly accused of exposing himself to female clients,
pled guilty to indecent conduct (Mason is cleared to work on sex
offender cases!)

* Seth Carey: Criminally investigated for sexual assault. Disciplined by
judges for "blatantly disingenous" courtroom conduct. Accused of
attempting to force a female client to perform oral sex on him, offered
her $1K and his car note in exchange for an NDA

(Pelletier kept Carey on despite all this, and he'd be defending
indigent clients today but for the fact that his law license was
suspended for three years)

* Lawrence Winger: a self-described "pornography addict" who did time
for possession of (a lot of) child pornography. Winger discovered his
interest in criminal defense while serving his prison sentence.

(He is not allowed to visit some of his clients because entering a jail
violates his probation; he "simply hopes" that none of his clients are
rearrested after he is assigned to them)

* Suzanne Dwyer-Jones: DUIs, previously lost her license after a judge
said her addiction and mental health issues were a "substantial threat
of irreparable harm to the public"

(Dwyer-Jones bailed on a client with dementia and a recent stroke who
couldn't understand a restraining order requiring him to stay away from
his girlfriend's house; once he switched lawyers, his charges were
dismissed after he was ruled incompetent to stand trial)

In Pelletier's system, it's not just your lawyer who represents a threat
to your safety: Nicholas R Moffo evaluates petitions for a publicly
funded defender on behalf of the Commission.

Moffo has been previously convicted of third-degree larceny related to
workplace theft.

During the police investigation of his crimes, Moffo threatened to "burn
down the home and kill the family" of a colleague he was worried would
talk to police; he showed his guns to another and threatened to kill
anyone who "ratted" on him.

Moffo was forced to surrender his guns - more than a dozen of them! -
after a "domestic incident" with his ex-, who told police she was
"deathly afraid" of him.

Pelletier knows about Moffo's past: a former commission employee, Pamela
Slye, told him about it.

If you are indigent and need a lawyer, Moffo is the guy who reviews your
case: he gets unsupervised access to your bank details, your SSN, your
phone number and your home address, and whether you live alone.

The states are sometimes called the "laboratories of democracy," where
experiments in better government can be tried and evaluated. Maine's
privatized, Republican, austerity-crazed, "free market" public defense
experiment is an unmitigated failure.

It's past time to shut the experiment down, decontaminate the lab and
put the lab's chiefs in front of a tribunal for gross misconduct and
criminal negligence.


🩲 America's wild hog "pig bomb"

America's feral hog problem has become a "pig bomb." Wild pigs have
mated with escaped farm pigs bred for high rates of reproduction
producing a hybrid that is growing like crazy.


Hybrid vigor is scary: these pigs are super smart, learn to avoid
gunfire, switch to a nocturnal schedule if they are hunted. They harbor
a multitude of human-infecting pathogens and do $2.5b/year of damage to
crops and livestock and have laid waste to habitats and preserves.

They roam over a 19 mi territory, which expands when they are actively
hunted. Add to that dumbasses who've imported and released wild pigs
into new territories for "recreational hunting."

After several brushes with pig-based crises, Montana licked its pig
problem (for now) with stiff penalties, extensive surveillance, and a
high-dollar "Squeal on Pigs" tipline.

Other states - and Canadian provinces, which are seeing surging wild pig
populations - are looking to Montana for guidance.

There's an estimated 9m feral hogs in the US, and their territory has
expanded from 17 states 30 years ago to at least 39 states today.

Their territory is expanding at 35,000 miles/year and they've reached
crisis levels in Florida, California, Georgia and Texas.


🩲 This day in history

#10yrsago Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From: multidisciplinary
hymn to diversity, openness and creativity

#5yrsago Genocide, not genes: indigenous peoples’ genetic alcoholism is
a racist myth

#5yrsago EU top court: NSA spying means US servers are not a fit home
for Europeans’ data

#1yrago Hi-rez, open-licensed recreation of the 1968 Disneyland souvenir


🩲 Colophon

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism (https://nakedcapitalism.com/).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 514 words (69107

Currently reading: Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 17)

Upcoming appearances:

* Library Leaders Forum, Oct 6

* 3 Big Ideas To Fix the Internet, Oct 7,

* Wired Nextfest Italia, Oct 10,

* The Attack Surface Lectures: 8 nights of bookstore-hosted events in
which I and a massive group of entertaining and knowledgeable experts
discourse on my latest novel's themes, Oct 13-22

Recent appearances:

* Disney's Haunted Mansion (Nelda Live)

* Digital Rights, Surveillance Capitalism & Interoperable Socks (MMT

* If Big Tech Is Toxic, How Do We Build Something Better? (panel)

Latest book:

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

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