Sunday, March 22, 2020

TODAY IN CRIME: March 23


1593: The Church of England tried and sentenced English Separatist Puritans John Greenwood and Henry Barrowe for devising and circulating seditious books.

1801: At St. Michael's Castle in St. Petersburg, conspirators rushed the bedroom of Tsar Paul I, struck him with a sword, strangled him, and finally him trampled to death.

1882: The U.S. adopted the Edmunds Act, declaring polygamy a felony and making “unlawful cohabitation” illegal. 1300 men were later imprisoned under the act.

1896: The New York State Legislature passed the Raines Law, restricting the Sunday sale of alcohol to hotels. Tavernkeepers added small bedrooms to their premises and sold rubber sandwiches over and over to circumvent the new law.

1901: Socialist Nikolai Lagovski attempted to assassinate Privy Councilor Konstantin Pobedonostsev, the symbol of Russian monarchal absolutism. Lagovski fired shots through Pobedonostsev’s office window in St. Petersburg, but missed. He was sentenced to six years of hard labor in Siberia.

1908: Korean-American assassins Jeon Myeong-un and Jang In-hwan attacked American diplomat Durham Stevens, an advisor to the Korean government who favored Japanese rule there. Stevens died two days later.

1931: Indian authorities hanged social revolutionaries Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru, and Sukhdev Thapar for the killing of British police officer John Saunders during the Indian struggle for independence. They intended to kill British police superintendent James Scott, whom they blamed for the death of nationalist leader Lala Lajpat Rai. Their request to be shot by a firing squad was refused.

1965: What began as a peaceful demonstration of Moroccan students demanding their right to public higher education on March 22 turned into an anti-government riot the next day. The Moroccan Army shot and killed as many as 1,000 protestors.

1981: The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a law making statutory rape a crime for men but not women.

1989: A New York court sentenced Joel Steinberg to 25 years for killing his adopted daughter in 1987. The case brought national attention to the issue of child abuse. Steinberg served nearly 17 years.

1990: An Alaska state judge ordered former Exxon Valdez Captain Joseph Hazelwood to help clean up Prince William Sound and pay $50,000 in restitution for the 1989 oil spill.

1994: At an election rally in Tijuana, Mario Aburto Martínez assassinated leading Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, the hand-picked successor to President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Although Martinez was arrested at the scene and confessed, there is widespread belief that President Salinas had grown dissatisfied with his candidate and orchestrated the attack.

1994: A New York prison released Joey Buttafuoco after serving four months for having sex with underage Amy Fisher. Fisher served seven years for shooting Buttafuoco's wife in the head.

1999: Gunmen assassinated Paraguay's Vice President Luis María Argaña, who was set to take over the country once the legislature impeached corrupt President Raúl Cubas. The public blamed Cubas and his cohorts for the attack and forced him to resign.

2005: A major explosion at the BP refinery in Texas City, Texas killed 15 workers and injured 180 others. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined BP $21 million for hundreds of safety violations and later imposed an additional $87 million fine for failing to correct them. BP reports it has paid more than $1.6 billion in victim compensation.

2012: The U.S. Army formally charged Staff Sgt. Robert Bales with 17 counts of premeditated murder in the deaths of 17 villagers, more than half of them children, during a shooting rampage in southern Afghanistan.

2016: A GPR investigation of Shakespeare's tomb at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford concluded the Bard's skull probably had been stolen. Rumors started circulating 200 years ago that trophy hunters pinched it.

2018: Facing certain impeachment, Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned amid a corruption scandal.

2019: An ethnic Dogon militia disguised as hunters and wielding guns and machetes killed 134 Fulani people and burned down their huts in Ogossagou, Mali. The Dogon blamed the Mali government for not protecting them from terrorists and claimed the villagers were harboring jihadists. In response to the attack, the Mali government, which at the time was hosting U.N. ambassadors on a peacekeeping mission, banned the militia. The Dogon and Fulani have been fighting over water rights for hundreds of years.

Monday, March 16, 2020

TODAY IN CRIME: March 16

photo credit: english-heritage.org.uk

1190: The Crusaders began the massacre of Jews who refused to submit to baptism in York, England. Many committed suicide rather than convert.

1244: French royal forces burned more than 200 Cathars, members of a heretical Christian sect, who refused to recant after the Fall of Montségur, a Cathar stronghold.

1792: Count Jacob Johan Anckarström shot King Gustav III of Sweden in the back at a masked ball at the opera. The king died on March 29.

1861: Texas Governor Sam Houston refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederate States of America and was ousted from office.

1948: Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia released Billie Holiday early because of good behavior. She was there for narcotics possession.

1968: U.S. troops in Viet Nam gunned down hundreds of unarmed civilians—mostly women and children—in the village of My Lai. The U.S. Army initially covered up the massacre. Of the 12 soldiers eventually charged, 11 were acquitted or had the case against them dropped before trial. Lt. William Calley was court-martialed, found guilty on 22 counts of murdering a civilian, and sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 1974 after years of house arrest.

1972: The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, under orders from the Nixon administration, served John Lennon and Yoko Ono with deportation papers. (Nixon feared the popular musician would persuade newly authorized young voters to vote against him in that year’s presidential election.) The couple eventually got green cards and could live in the U.S. permanently.

1978: The Red Brigades, a left-wing urban guerilla group, kidnapped Italian politician Aldo Moro, a popular leader of the center-left. It later murdered him.

1984: Hezbollah Shiite Muslims kidnapped William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut. He died while in captivity.

1985: Islamic militants kidnapped chief Middle East Associated Press correspondent Terry Anderson in Beirut. He spent more than six years as a hostage.

1988: In the largest chemical weapons attack in history, Iraqi forces struck the Kurdish town of Halabja in Iraq with a mix of poison gas and nerve agents, killing 5,000 and injuring about 10,000 people.

1988: Two hooded gunmen shot to death auto racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife Trudy in the driveway of their San Gabriel Valley, California home. Former business partner Michael Frank Goodwin, a suspect at the time, was finally tried and sentenced in 2007 for orchestrating the killings.

1988: A U.S. federal grand jury indicted Lieutenant Colonel Oliver L. North and Vice Admiral John M. Poindexter of the National Security Council and two others on charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. for their complicity in the Iran-contra affair.

1994: Tonya Harding pled guilty to “conspiracy to hinder prosecution” in the government’s investigation of the attack on fellow Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan.

1995: Mississippi formally ratified the Thirteenth Amendment banning slavery. The state failed to send a copy of the resolution to the Office of the Federal Register, however, until 2013. The amendment had been officially ratified in 1865.

1997: On Bougainville Island in the south Pacific, Commander Jerry Singirok and soldiers of the Papua New Guinea Defense Force arrested Tim Spicer and his mercenaries of Sandline International. Singirok resented the prime minister hiring mercenaries to resolve the secessionist revolt on the island.

1998: Rwanda began mass trials for the 1994 genocide with 125,000 suspects for 500,000 murders. Ultimately the new government, unable to prosecute so many on such a large scale, adapted the country’s Gacaca system of traditional, informal community courts to work alongside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda created by the U.N.

1999: All 20 members of the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, announced their resignations in the wake of a damning report exposing fraud, corruption, and mismanagement at senior levels.

2001: In the biggest mass murder in China in ten years, displaced worker Jin Ruchao set off a series of bomb blasts in the city of Shijiazhuang, China, killing 108 people and injuring 38 others. He was targeting his ex-wife and her family, among others. Ruchao pled guilty and was executed. Another three men were convicted for illegally selling him explosives and related gear, sentenced to death, and executed.

2003: An Israeli Defense Forces armored bulldozer killed 23-year-old American activist Rachel Corrie while she was trying to block Israeli troops from demolishing a Palestinian home in Gaza.

2005: Alameda County, California Judge Alfred Delucchi sentenced Scott Peterson to death by lethal injection for the murder of his pregnant wife, Laci.

2016: North Korea sentenced U.S. college student Otto Warmbier to 15 years hard labor for trying to steal a political poster, in Pyongyang, North Korea.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

TODAY IN CRIME: March 9

1562: The city of Naples banned public kissing, punishable by death.

1566: Lord Darnley, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, along with several allies, murdered David Rizzio, private secretary to the queen, in the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. They dragged him from the dining room where he was supping with Mary, held the pregnant queen at knifepoint, and stabbed Rizzio to death. Darnley suspected Rizzio was the father of Mary’s unborn baby, James VI.

1721: The House of Commons imprisoned British Chancellor Exchequer John Aislabie in the Tower of London Tower for his involvement in the South Sea Bubble, a speculation scheme that ruined many investors.

1762: The Parliament of Toulouse sentenced to death cloth merchant Jean Calas, a Huguenot, for the murder of his son Marc-Antoine, who was considering converting to Catholicism, the state religion. Calas insisted his son killed himself over gambling debts. To force Calas to confess to murder, authorities pulled all his limbs out of their sockets, poured 17 litres of water down his throat, broke all his limbs twice with an iron bar, tortured him on the wheel, and finally strangled him to death. He died protesting his innocence. They burned him to ashes and buried his son as a Catholic martyr.

1765: A 50-judge panel in Paris exonerated Calas posthumously after Voltaire took an interest in the case and roused public opinion that anti-Huguenot prejudices had influenced the lower courts. King Louis XV fired the chief magistrate in Toulouse and paid the Calas family 36,000 livres in compensation.

1841: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in United States v. The Amistad that mutinous slaves from the Spanish schooner La Amistad were free. 53 people snatched from their homes in Sierra Leone had taken over the ship and killed the captain and the cook. The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the mutineers were not merchandise but victims of kidnapping and therefore had the right to use any means to escape.

1893: Allies of the Congo Free State cannibalized thousands of defeated Arab combatants in the Eastern Congo during the Congo-Arab war.

1905: Belgian Vice-Governor General of the Congo Free State Paul Costermans shot himself to death following an investigation of colonial abuses.

1907: Indiana Governor Hanly signed a law mandating the involuntary sterilization of "confirmed criminals, idiots, rapists and imbeciles" in state custody. The Indiana Supreme Court declared the legislation—the first of its kind in the world—unconstitutional in 1921, but forced sterilization laws resurfaced again in 1927. Approximately 2500 Indiana residents were sterilized before the state repealed all sterilization laws in 1974.

1916: Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa invaded New Mexico with 500 guerrillas, killing 18 Americans. U.S. President Wilson ordered General Pershing to pursue Villa into Mexico.

1936: The German press warned that the Reich would arrest and prosecute any Jews who voted in the upcoming Reichstag elections.

1956: British authorities arrested Archbishop Makarios of British-held Cyprus under suspicion of supporting terrorism—he was an advocate of unification with Greece—and deported him to the Seychelles. He returned to Cyprus and in 1960 became the first president of the newly independent country.

1956: Soviet troops opened fire on students in Georgian SSR demonstrating against Nikita Khrushchev's de-Stalinization policy. Tanks eventually dispersed the protestors the next day but by then at least 22 people had been killed.

1964: The U.S. Supreme Court issued its N.Y. Times v. Sullivan decision, ruling public officials must prove malice to claim libel and recover damages.

1977: Twelve heavily armed Hanafi Muslims stormed three buildings in Washington, D.C. and held 149 people hostage, killing a reporter and wounding two others. Muslim ambassadors from Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran finally convinced them to end the siege after 39 hours.

1993: Rodney King testified at the federal trial of four Los Angeles policemen accused of violating his civil rights that he “was just trying to stay alive” as the officers repeatedly struck him.

1997: An unknown gunman killed 24-year-old rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace) in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. Investigations by the LAPD and the FBI reached no conclusions.

2007: The U.S. Justice Department released an internal audit that found that the FBI used the Patriot Act improperly and unlawfully to obtain information about U.S. residents.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

TODAY IN CRIME: March 2


1127: Sword-wielding knights under the auspices of the powerful Erembald family struck down Charles the Good, Count of Flanders, as he knelt in prayer. Charles sought to bring down the Erembalds because they were hoarding bread and inflating its price during a famine.

1807: The U.S. Congress passed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, effective January 1, 1808. Slaves continued to be imported illegally after that date and the domestic slave trade was not affected by the law’s enactment, as seen by the next item:

1859: Slaveowner Pierce Mease Butler sold more than 400 people to pay off his gambling debts at The Great Slave Auction near Savannah, Georgia. Also called “The Weeping Time,” the event was the largest sale of enslaved people in U. S. history.

1865: Fanatic members of the Pai Marire, a movement combining Christianity and traditional Māori beliefs, hanged and decapitated German-born Protestant missionary Carl Sylvius Völkner in New Zealand. Pai Marire prophet Kereopa Te Rau immediately preached a sermon at Volkner’s pulpit standing next to his severed head, then gouged out his eyes and ate them.

1867: Six robbers held up the private banking house of Judge John McClain in Savannah, Missouri. When the judge refused to hand over the key to the vault, a nervous gunman shot him in the chest and all the robbers fled—with no cash. The judge survived his wound. The holdup has been attributed to a group of bushwhackers copycatting the James-Younger gang.

1882: Aspiring poet Roderick MacLean attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria with a pistol as she departed Windsor railway station in the royal carriage but missed when two alert Eton schoolboys attacked him and spoiled his aim. McLean had sent his poetry to Her Majesty and was insulted by her curt response. The Scotsman was tried for high treason, found “not guilty, but insane,” and spent the rest of his life in Broadmoor Asylum. Annoyed by the lenient verdict, the Queen ordered parliament to create the option of “guilty, but insane.”

1962: In Burma, the army led by General Ne Win seized power in his second coup d'état.

1975: Police in Los Angeles stopped a Lincoln Continental driven by former Beatle Paul McCartney for running a red light and arrested his passenger, wife Linda McCartney, for possession of marijuana. The LAPD eventually dropped the charges against Linda and never charged Paul.

1995: German authorities arrested fleeing British trader Nick Leeson for speculative and illegal trades that caused the collapse of Barings Bank PLC, the UK’s oldest merchant bank. Working from the Singapore office largely unsupervised, Leeson made fraudulent investments and caused an unrecoverable billion-pound loss for the bank. He spent six years in prison.

2000: UK Home Secretary Jack Straw authorized the release of former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet on the grounds of ill health. British authorities arrested Pinochet in 1998 using “universal jurisdiction” and placed him under house arrest in Surrey as he awaited extradition on torture charges. He died in Chile in 2006 without ever standing trial.

2015: A serious case review found the Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire Social Services negligent in protecting more than 300 underage girls targeted by seven men convicted of rape, sexual exploitation, and other charges in 2013. The agencies disbelieved the girls’ claims.

2015: Searchers found the body of missing 16-year-old Becky Watts of Bristol, England. Her stepbrother and his girlfriend had kidnapped her, suffocated her, chopped her up into eight pieces, and stored her remains in a garden shed. The killers were sentenced to a total of 50 years.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

TODAY IN CRIME: February 24


303: After consulting the oracle of Apollo, Emperor Diocletian issued the first official Roman edict for the persecution of Christians.

1387: King Charles III of Naples and Hungary died from an assassin’s wounds. The queen dowager of Hungary, Elizabeth of Bosnia, ordered the execution so her daughter Mary could resume the throne.

1868: The U.S. House of Representatives resolved to impeach President Andrew Johnson because he attempted to replace Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton without senate approval. The U.S. Senate later acquitted Johnson.

1875: The SS Gothenburg hit the Great Barrier Reef and sank off the east coast of Australia. Approximately 100 people were killed due to cyclone-like conditions and poor judgment in the wheelhouse.

1924: Mahatma Gandhi was released from jail after serving two years for sedition—protesting the British colonial government in India.

1945: Mahmoud El Essawy killed Egyptian Premier Ahmed Maher Pasha in Parliament after the premier declared war against the Axis powers and issued a fatwa against the Muslim Brotherhood.

1981: A Westchester county jury convicted Jean Harris of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Scarsdale diet doctor Herman Tarnower.

1984: A disturbed man named Tyrone Mitchell fired shots from the window of his home across the street from the 49th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles. He killed a student and a passerby and injured 12 others before killing himself during a standoff with police.

1988: The U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of Hustler  magazine that its parody ad of Rev. Jerry Falwell was protected speech.

1989: 12 people were killed and 40 wounded in Bombay when police fired at Muslims rioting against Salman Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses.

1996: The Cuban Air Force shot down two private civilian planes of "Brothers to the Rescue," an activist group that supports Cuban refugees. All four pilots were killed. The action taken by the Cuban government was universally condemned.

1999: The State of Arizona executed Karl LaGrand, a German national involved in a deadly armed robbery, in spite of Germany's appeal through the International Court of Justice to save him. Capital punishment is prohibited in Germany.

2019: Pope Francis ended a 4-day "Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church" attended by 190 church leaders promising more action and calling those who sexually abuse children "tools of Satan."

Sunday, February 16, 2020

TODAY IN CRIME: February 17



1600: With his "tongue imprisoned because of his wicked words," philosopher Giordano Bruno was stripped, hung upside down, and burned at the stake for heresy at Campo de' Fiori in Rome. Bruno advocated the Copernican theory.

1634: A Star Chamber sentenced Puritan pamphleteer William Prynne to life in prison for publishing Histrio Mastix: The Players Scourge, or, Actors tragoedie, a denunciation of the theatre that was interpreted as a slam against Queen Henrietta Maria, an occasional actress. He was also fined £5,000, deprived of his Oxford degree, expelled from Lincoln's Inn, his ears cut off, and pilloried.

1838: Zulu forces killed hundreds of Voortrekkers (Dutch settlers) along the Bloukrans River, Natal, Africa, in the Weenen massacre.

1865: Columbia, S.C., burned as the Confederates evacuated and Union forces moved in.

1880: Alexander II of Russia survived an assassination attempt by the "Will of the People," a revolutionary terrorist organization. A workman planted dynamite under the dining room floor during a remodeling of the Winter Palace. The night of the planned assassination, a late guest caused dinner to be postponed, so when the timer detonated, the family was just leaving the drawing room and escaped unharmed. Eleven members of the Finnish Guard in the Guard Room below the dining room were killed, however. The explosion could be heard all over St. Petersburg.

1964: Military personal toppled Gabonese president Léon M'ba and installed his political rival Jean-Hilaire Aubame in his place. Three days later French forces restored the legitimate government.

1970: U.S. Army captain Jeffrey MacDonald murdered his pregnant wife and two small daughters in their Fort Bragg home.

1974: U.S. Army private Robert K. Preston, upset over his military career trajectory, buzzed the White House in a stolen helicopter. With Maryland State Police chasing him and White House security shooting at him, Preston landed on the South Lawn and he was taken into custody.

1992: Armenian troops massacred more than 20 Azerbaijani civilians during the Capture of Garadaghly.

1992: A Milwaukee judge sentenced serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer to 15 consecutive life terms in prison. A fellow inmate killed him in 1994.

1995: A Nassau County judge convicted Colin Ferguson of six counts of murder and 19 counts of attempted murder in the December 1993 Long Island Rail Road shootings.

1998: A Texas jury convicted U.S. Naval Academy cadet Diane Zamora, 20, of capital murder for killing Adrianne Jessica Jones, a romantic rival. The victim's family requested prosecutors not to seek the death penalty and Zamora was sentenced to life in prison.

2012: The president of Germany, Christian Wulff, resigned over a corruption scandal. He was later acquitted of all charges.

2012: In a brazen daylight robbery, two thieves stole approximately 70 ancient Olympic artifacts from the Museum of the History of the Olympic Games in Greece.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

TODAY IN CRIME: February 10


1306: Robert the Bruce and his followers stabbed to death Robert’s political rival, Scottish governor John Comyn, before the altar of Greyfriars Church at Dumfries in the First War of Scottish Independence. Robert seized the throne a few weeks later.

1355: The St. Scholastica Day riot broke out in Oxford, England, leaving nearly 100 people dead over two days. It started as a bar brawl and spread into the streets, pitting "town" vs. "gown."

1567: After an explosion at the Kirk o' Field house in Edinburgh, Scotland, searchers could not find Lord Darnley, second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots and father of future King James VI. He was found strangled in a nearby orchard. Suspects included Queen Mary herself and her next husband, Lord Bothwell; James Douglas, Earl of Morton, was eventually executed for his part in it.

1676: Nashaway chief Monoco led 400 native Americans on a raid of Lancaster, Mass., setting fire to houses, stealing provisions, killing villagers, and taking them prisoner.

1837: Beloved Russian poet and novelist Alexander Pushkin died from wounds received in a duel two days before. Russian Guard officer George d’Anthès had made advances to Pushkin’s wife Natalia, one of the most beautiful women in Russia.

1942: The SS Normandie, a former French liner, capsized in New York Harbor. The ship had caught fire the day before while it was being converted to a troopship. The mob claimed it sabotaged the liner to start a protection racket against the Navy.

1981: Troubled busboy Phillip Bruce Cline started the Las Vegas Hilton fire that left 8 people dead and 200 injured. Cline was convicted of arson and eight counts of murder.

1984: Kenyan security forces executed as many as 10,000 ethnic Somalis in the Wagalla massacre. In the years since, officials have resigned, condemnations made, and official probes ordered, but no one has yet been prosecuted.

1987: Philippine troops murdered 17 civilians in Lupao, claiming the unarmed men, women, and children were members of the New People's Army. All 24 soldiers were acquitted by a military court.

1992: An Indiana jury convicted fighter Mike Tyson of raping Desiree Washington, a Miss Black America contestant, the previous summer.

1997: The U.S. Army suspended its top-ranking enlisted soldier, Sgt. Major Gene McKinney, following allegations of sexual misconduct. Although he was convicted of obstruction of justice, McKinney was acquitted of 18 counts alleging sexual harassment.

1998: Expelled student Richard Machado became the first person convicted of committing a hate crime in cyberspace. The ex-UC Irvine student had sent e-mails threatening Asian students.

1998: Maine voters repealed a 1997 gay rights law. Maine was the first state to annul legislation that protects homosexuals from discrimination.

2013: During the Hindu festival Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, that attracted 30 million people, railway police attacked an unruly crowd at the train station, triggering a stampede that killed 36 people and injured 39.

2018: 19 people were killed and 66 injured when a Kowloon Motor Bus double decker on route 872 in Hong Kong overturned. The driver, previously convicted of careless driving in another accident, faces 19 counts of manslaughter and 18 counts of dangerous driving causing grievous bodily harm.

2019: The Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News reported widespread sexual abuse in U.S. Southern Baptist churches. Nearly 400 church members were implicated with over 700 victims over a 20-year span.