Monday, July 28, 2014
Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2014
The night before his luck ran out in Bethlehem, one of Nevada’s most wanted casino cheats allegedly managed to swindle nearly $1,000 out of Bensalem’s Parx casino.
Pennsylvania State Police in the Trevose section of Bensalem have issued an arrest warrant for 40-year-old Las Vegas resident Jubreal Chahine, aka Alexander Allen, Gabriel Allen, Allen Allen and two other aliases, charging him with two counts of felony theft by deception and criminal attempted theft, and misdemeanor unlawful take/claim.
Chahine is locked up in a Lehigh County prison in lieu of $150,000 bail charged with being a fugitive from justice. He has multiple detainers from Nevada and other states.
Pennsylvania State Police arrested him Saturday morning on the floor of the Sands Casino in Bethlehem after he applied for a player’s card there using his correct name and birth date, according to authorities.
On Friday night, an observant table dealer caught Chahine surreptitiously changing his wager from $100 to $575 after he won in an attempt to increase his winnings, a cheating technique known as pinch-pressing, according to court documents.
The dealer refused to pay the difference. Chahine then denied changing his bet, and said he was seeking change, according to the probable cause affidavit. Chahine then cashed out and left the casino shortly before 11:30 p.m., before state police were informed.
Parx surveillance reviewed video of other tables where Chahine played earlier in the evening and saw that twice before he successfully changed his bet from $100 to $575, resulting in an extra $475 payout, according to the affidavit.
Chahine managed to cheat by exchanging one of four green chips, worth $25 apiece, with a purple chip, valued at $500, after a win, court documents said.
“It is clearly visible in the video surveillance that the defendant changed his bet,” state police said.
As a result, Chahine left Parx with $950 more than he actually won, the affidavit shows.
Parx was able to identify Chahine using biometric facial recognition software, which compared photos of him allegedly cheating at Parx with pictures the casino had on file, the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which lists him as one of its most wanted cheaters, and the mug shot photo taken Saturday after he was busted at the Sands, court records said.
Chahine has “multiple” warrants from “multiple” states for similar alleged cheating incidents, state police said.
Nevada’s gaming regulators consider Chahine one of the most notorious cheaters in the state with 14 arrests for casino-cheating crimes since 1999 in Las Vegas and Reno. He has five previous convictions for those crimes, said Karl Bennison, the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s chief of enforcement.
He was sentenced to 19 to 48 months in prison on a cheating conviction in late 2003, according to Clark County court records.
Currently, Chahine has seven outstanding arrest warrants in Nevada for alleged casino cheating, and at least six are for charges filed after his most recent arrest last August, Bennison said. He also has multiple bench warrants for not showing up for court appearances in the state, he said.
In Vegas and Reno, Chahine is known for two cheating methods, Bennison said. He changes the amount of his wager to increase his winnings, particularly on Blackjack and Baccarat tables, or he past-posts, which is when a gambler attempts to make a bet after the roulette wheel is spinning or the die are thrown on the craps table.
“He’s probably been eighty-sixed from most of the (Vegas) Strip casinos, (and) that is probably why he does travel,” Bennison added. “He gets caught a lot, but you don’t know what you don’t know. How many times has he has gotten away with it?”
Chahine will face the Pennsylvania charges first. The other states looking for him might get him before he returns to his hometown, Bennison said. If convicted in Nevada alone, he could face more than a year in prison for each crime.
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Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Learn more about Dollars for Delilah
For 12-year-old “Delilah,” it was a typical Monday evening: two round-trips to the Fallsington Quaker Meeting house for dinner before parking for the evening around 8 in a Middletown church lot.
But overnight someone broke into the 13-seat passenger bus, busting a window and swiping the fire extinguisher.
The 2002 Chevy bus provides rides for the homeless to an emergency shelter in the winter and church dinners year-round.
Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need Executive Director Sandy Mullican found the vandalism Tuesday morning when she went to get the mileage to renew the bus registration. Initially it appeared vandals damaged the bus wiring, but a check found nothing disconnected and the motor started, she added.
Mullican and another volunteer fixed the window, though they’ll have to shell out $150 to replace the fire extinguisher. They filed a report with Middletown police.
Mullican and her volunteers are grateful the damage didn’t take the bus off the road. That’s a growing fear for her all-volunteer nonprofit, which runs the county’s Code Blue shelter programs and other efforts to help the homeless.
“Anything that might take Delilah out of commission becomes a major situation for us,” Mullican said. “It’s hard to find another mode of transportation on very short notice, and it’s even harder to notify so many homeless that we have a transportation issue.”
The bus is the only reliable mode of transportation for dozens of homeless living around Lower Bucks. AHTN bought it using donations in 2011 — two years after the county started its Cold Blue program, which offers the homeless shelter on nights when the temperatures dip below freezing.
Before Delilah, volunteers borrowed church vans to pick up homeless, Mullican said. The bus allows them to expand services and the geography they serve.
And the bus has been around the block more than a few times, now nearing 200,000 miles, Mullican said. The bus isn’t wheelchair accessible, a problem AHTN encountered last winter.
When the bus goes out of commission, volunteers scramble to find alternative transportation, which usually means borrowing a church van, Mullican said. But there are no guarantees one will be available, especially in the summer when there are many church youth programs operating, she added.
If another vehicle isn’t available, Mullican or another volunteer end up driving to each stop to tell homeless waiting there they have no transportation.
“I feel horrible leaving someone standing out at one of our stops and the van never comes,” she said. “When we don’t show, we’re sending the wrong message.”
AHTN has undertaken a fundraising campaign — Dollars for Delilah — to raise money to purchase a second bus, or as Mullican says, a “sibling” for Delilah. A second vehicle would not only provide a backup bus, but also could help the group expand its mission.
Currently the bus stops only in Bristol Township.
Mullican wonders why the bus was a target, especially since it is clearly marked as serving the homeless. While $150 to replace the fire extinguisher, which is required to operate the bus, doesn’t sound like a lot, for her organization every penny counts.
“It’s sad that someone would bother a bus that spends so much time helping others,” she added. “And incurring costs means spending funds that could go to a second bus.”
To learn more about the Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need's effort to purchase a second bus to transport homeless individuals, visit their Web site at www.ahtn.org. There is link to a PayPal account set up to take donations
To send a donation, mail a check to AHTN at P.O. Box 184 Fairless Hills, Pa 19030.
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014
A 27-year-old New Jersey man is accused of approaching at least a half-dozen Bucks County girls under age 16 with offers to pay them in cash, alcohol and cigarettes for sex or nude photos.
And five teens took him up on the offer, police said.
Adam Carnevale, of Lawrenceville, offered to pay a 12-year-old for a sex act, but she refused, police said. Another 13-year-old girl allegedly sent him more than a dozen nude photos and a sexually explicit video of herself but didn’t meet him to get paid.
Carnevale also threatened to post topless photos of a Falls girl on the Internet if she refused to continue performing sex acts on him, police said.
He also offered to pay the girls more money if they would find him other teens to have sex with, police said. The girls declined his offer to set them up with other older guys who would also pay for sex, police said.
Available court records do not say how much Carnevale allegedly paid the girls, whom he met mainly through social media sites, according to authorities.
Carnevale is expected to be arraigned Wednesday on multiple charges of unlawful contact with minors, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, prostitution, sexual abuse of children and related offenses.
The charges were filed while Carnevale was sitting in Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $1 million bail in a case that police say led them to the other girls he allegedly propositioned.
In the first case, he is charged with multiple criminal attempt charges, including unlawful contact with a minor, promoting prostitution of a minor and indecent assault on a person under age 16.
Falls police began investigating Carnevale in January after an acquaintance of his claimed he offered to pay her to find him a teen to have sex with. With help from authorities, the acquaintance created a Facebook profile for a fictitious 15-year-old and started communicating with Carnevale online. In secretly monitored conversations and messages, Carnevale solicited the fictitious teen for sex, which then led to the original solicitation charges, police said.
In May, Carnevale was arrested after allegedly admitting to police in Falls and Lawrence, New Jersey, that he was seeking nude photos of underage girls and had sex with underage girls in Bucks County and New Jersey for several years.
Falls police confiscated an iPhone 5 and Apple iPad 2 that Carnevale had with him and conducted a forensic analysis on them, according to a probable cause affidavit in the new case.
On the devices, police said they found evidence that included 14 photos and a sexually explicit video of a 13-year-old Bensalem girl. Police interviewed the girl, who told them Carnevale “randomly” messaged her using a smartphone app called KIK and offered her cash for nude photos, according to the affidavit.
The girl agreed and sent him the photos and video, but when Carnevale wanted to meet her at a nearby mall to pay her, she “chickened out” and never met him, the affidavit said.
A now 17-year-old Falls girl claimed she met Carnevale after he “randomly” messaged her on Facebook asking if she was interested in making money, police said. He continued contact with the girl, who was then 15, through Facebook and other social media sites.
During the spring of 2012, the then 15-year-old and a 14-year-old friend agreed to meet Carnevale in a Falls church parking lot, where they performed a sex act in his car, police said. Afterward, Carnevale paid both girls to send him nude photos of themselves.
But the 15-year-old told police that Carnevale threatened to post the topless photos on the Internet if she did not continue performing sex acts on him or “get naked” for him on the social media site Oovoo, the affidavit said.
The girl told police she continued sexual contact with Carnevale almost weekly until March and numerous times he video-recorded the encounters, according to the affidavit. Most of the time Carnevale paid her cash, but he also gave her alcohol, clothing, food and cigarettes, police said.
Her 14-year-old friend alleges Carnevale paid her 20 to 30 times for sex acts, which were performed either in parking lots throughout Bucks County or at his New Jersey home, police said. He also paid her for 30 to 40 nude photos of herself, the affidavit said.
A now 16-year-old Middletown girl met Carnevale through the 15-year-old Falls girl in January, when she was also 15, police said. The girl claims Carnevale paid her seven times for sex acts. She also sent him two topless photos of herself, but was never paid, police said.
Carnevale met a now 16-year-old Bristol Township girl a year ago on a social media site called Badoo and after a week they exchanged KIK screen names, police said. Soon he was allegedly offering her cash to perform sex acts.
The girl first took him up on the offer in October, and met him in his car parked on a Bristol Township street, court records allege. Carnevale allegedly videotaped the sex act. She performed sex acts on him three more times, twice in his car parked on a Bristol Township street and once in his New Jersey home, police said.
Carnevale’s youngest alleged victim was a 12-year-old Falls girl, who he allegedly “randomly” added to his Facebook friends last fall, then immediately started messaging her with offers to trade sex for cash, police said.
The two exchanged phone numbers and she typically texted once a day with Carnevale, who was allegedly trying to convince her to meet him.
In December, Carnevale asked if he could come over to the girl’s home, and while she gave him her address, she refused to come outside when he showed up, police said.
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014
A prior escape doesn’t automatically disqualify an inmate from Bucks County’s minimum security program, which is intended to help them transition back into the community, according to the county’s director of prison operations.
But the longstanding second-chance policy, virtually nonexistent in neighboring Montgomery County, has come under scrutiny following the June 10 stabbing of a Bensalem police officer attempting to arrest an AWOL work release inmate.
County officials are seeking more information about how the program operates and how often inmates go missing.
The Bensalem officer was not seriously injured in the stabbing attack. The suspect, Matthew Miller, 23, of Bensalem, is charged with criminal attempted homicide and related charges, as well as escape. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
|Matthew Miller after he allegedly stabbed a cop|
The day after the stabbing, Prison Oversight Board members grilled prison Director William Plantier about the frequency of walkaway escapes. Bucks County Commissioner Chairman Robert Loughery, who sits on the oversight board, didn’t attend that meeting, but said a review will be done on prison policy as well as an evaluation of offender qualification for the program.
“We are certainly concerned about what happened,” he said.
Board Chairman and county Sheriff Duke Donnelly supports work release programs and believes the county’s program runs “pretty smooth.” But he doesn’t understand why policy allowed Miller back into the work release program given his 2011 escape conviction.
“He shouldn’t have been sent there,” Donnelly said. “If you walk away once and go back to the prison, you don’t go back there.”
That’s the way it is Montgomery County, where a prior escape would make an inmate ineligible for future participation in either a minimum security prison program except under a “very, very rare” circumstance, Montgomery County spokesman Frank Custer said.
After Miller’s arrest, it was revealed Bucks County averages one to two inmates a month disappearing without permission from minimum security Bucks County Community Corrections.
So far this year, nine Community Corrections participants have gone missing — four in June. A 10th inmate turned himself in two hours after going missing and was disciplined internally, a county official said. No inmates have been reported missing since June 25, county spokesman Chris Edwards said.
But four of the escapees remain at large including one missing since February. The men have been convicted on charges such as drug, theft and simple assault, according to county records and the prison.
Recent court records indicate generally fewer than 10 percent of Community Corrections inmates walk away without permission. The overall number of escapes has dropped over the past five years, according to data compiled by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
In 2009-10, 20 people were charged with escape from an unsecured facility out of the district court overseen by Judge Mark Douple, which has jurisdiction over the community corrections unit. The number dropped to nine in 2012-13, but increased to 13 during the most recent fiscal year, which ended May 31, according to AOPC data.
Roughly 300 inmates were housed in the Community Corrections unit in May, and about 76 were approved for work release, which allows them to earn money while serving their sentences, according to county officials.
“Work release is important to reintegrate people into the community and help them pay off fines,” Plantier said. “It’s very poor corrections if you keep them in a maximum security environment for two years and then throw them out on the street. You’ll see much higher rates of recidivism.”
At an average of 148 participants, neighboring Montgomery County’s Community Corrections program is half the size of Bucks County’s. Its inmate participants are required to sign acknowledgements that they are aware of the rules and regulations for community corrections and work release, county spokesman Frank Custer said.
Last year, Montgomery County had eight Community Corrections or work release walkaways, two fewer than what Bucks County reported in 2013. All eight either returned on their own or were captured, Custer said. So far this year, only three Montgomery County inmates have gone AWOL; one returned within 48 hours, one was caught and another remains missing.
When an inmate walks away from Community Corrections in Bucks County, there is no rush to file an arrest warrant though law enforcement is notified immediately through all-points bulletins about missing inmates, Plantier said.
“We’ve never, as a correctional system, gone crazy trying to chase after them,” Plantier said.
In Miller’s case, the prison filed an arrest warrant charging him with escape three days after he was reported missing, according to online court records. The Bensalem police department said in court documents it was alerted Miller was wanted for escape less than an hour before the confrontation with the police officer.
Miller was the first inmate with a prior escape from Community Corrections to walk away a second time in the three years that Plantier has been prison director, the director said.
NUISANCE VS. THREAT
The unit provides a far more relaxed environment than the county jail, Plantier said. Doors are not locked. The property isn’t fenced in. Inmates live in dorm-style housing. They work on the premises, hold jobs in the community or perform community service. There are mandatory daily drug tests, and random inmate counts are conducted at least seven times a day.
Participating inmates must be approved by the court as well as screened by the prison for behavior, mental health and criminal history to make sure they are considered low-risk offenders, Plantier said. The risk assessment looks at the sentence imposed, violence of the crime, prior incarceration and classifies an inmate as maximum, medium or minimum security, he said.
Generally, Community Corrections participants have been convicted of crimes such as drug possession, DUI or parole and probation violations.
The “borderline” cases — which Matthew Miller was considered, Plantier said — require a second-level of review before being considered for the Community Corrections unit. That review is done by the deputy warden, a case manager and community corrections manager, Plantier said.
These would include inmates with misconducts during incarceration and those in and out of the prison. In Miller’s case, in addition to the prior escape, he has a criminal history including convictions for DUI, false identification to authorities, theft and receiving stolen property, according to court records.
A third review level is reserved for inmates convicted of sex crimes, which requires the prison warden, superintendent and Plantier each approve in order for the inmate to enter Community Corrections.
Often drugs are behind an inmate going missing, Plantier said. An inmate will use illegal drugs while in the community and know he’ll fail the drug tests, an infraction that would land them back in general population, Plantier said. Others are lured away by family or a romantic interest, he added.
While Miller’s 2011 escape conviction made him ineligible for the Community Corrections in 2012, he was locked up for a parole violation, he subsequently became eligible after being incarcerated a third time in March for a parole violation, Plantier said.
He remained in the regular prison until he was transferred to community corrections and approved for work release on June 5, according to authorities and court records. He was reported missing from one of the daily institutional counts the next day.
Plantier said prison officials “took our time” conducting Miller’s most recent risk assessment and screening and, in the end, he met the program criteria.
“We’d take a lot harder look at someone who had a prior escape. Given the nature of this guy’s offenses, his criminal history and none of them showed him as high or moderate risk,” Plantier said. “He’s more of a nuisance than a threat. We’re quite shocked that he assaulted the officer.”
Monday, July 21, 2014
Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Termination procedures are pending against a suspended Bucks County Intermediate Unit driver who’s accused of leaving a 4-year-old special needs child alone, strapped into a car seat, in a school van for 2½ hours, an I.U. spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Bristol Township police anticipate the district attorney’s office will have their police report by Friday and will decide if criminal charges will be filed against the driver, Lt. Guy Sava said. There was no indication Wednesday when the DA’s decision will be made.
The Bensalem boy was treated for dehydration at Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol Township and sent home a few hours later, officials said.
The child left on the van was one of five special needs preschoolers picked up around 9 a.m. Tuesday by the unidentified driver and taken to the Friendship Circle Center on Emily Avenue in Bristol Township, according to police and an I.U. spokeswoman. After dropping off the kids, the driver drove the 10-passenger van to her home, which is allowed under I.U. policy, officials said.
The driver, who has worked for the I.U. for roughly 14 months, didn’t realize the boy was in the van until after she returned to the center around noon to pick up the other kids, according to a preliminary investigation. The driver asked where the fifth child was and a center employee said the driver had only dropped off four kids, authorities said. The driver and center staff found the boy in the back row of the van, I.U. spokeswoman Joann Perotti said Tuesday. He was immediately removed and given liquids.
Intermediate Unit staff met with the driver Wednesday, but couldn’t discuss what she told them about the incident because it is a personnel matter, Perotti said.
Preliminary findings by the I.U. indicate the driver didn’t follow the agency policy that requires all drivers to check the vehicle after students are dropped off, Perotti said.
The spokeswoman said Wednesday the I.U. hasn’t discussed ending its contract with the Friendship Circle Center, a BARC Development Services program that serves children ages 2 to 5 with special needs. The I.U. transports 20 students to the center regularly during the summer, Perotti said.
However, the I.U. will determine when BARC employees realized the boy was missing and review the steps they took after that. Perotti said she expected to receive a copy of BARC’s attendance policy before the end of the business day Wednesday.
At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the temperature was in the low 80s in Doylestown, the closest weather station in Bucks County, according to the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey. There’s no indication of how hot it was inside the van when the boy was found.
“The Intermediate Unit does not tolerate conduct inconsistent with this policy and our core values, which stress safety for all children,” Perotti said in a statement issued Wednesday. “We regret that this happened. Transporting precious children each day to and from school requires careful planning and coordination, keeping student safety at the forefront. This incident was an exception and not at all typical of our staff.”
Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Bristol Township police are investigating how a 4-year-old boy with special needs was left alone, strapped in a car seat, inside a school van for 2½ hours Tuesday before he was found and taken to the hospital.
The child was treated for dehydration at Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol Township around noon. He was released just before 3 p.m., according to Joann Perotti, spokeswoman for the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, which employs the driver.
The unidentified van driver who left the child — one of five preschoolers picked up Tuesday morning — was immediately suspended, Perotti said. She will be paid for Tuesday, then will be suspended without pay as of Wednesday while the I.U. and police investigation continues, Perotti said. The driver has worked for the I.U. since June 2013, she added.
Perotti said preliminary findings by the Intermediate Unit indicate the driver didn’t follow the agency policy that requires each driver to check the vehicle to ensure all students have gotten off.
At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the temperature was in the low 80s in Doylestown, which is the closest weather station in Bucks County, according to the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, temperatures can rise 20 degrees in 10 minutes inside a car. There’s no indication exactly how hot the van was when the boy was found.
The child attends the Friendship Circle Center on Emily Avenue in the Croydon section of Bristol Township, police and the I.U. confirmed. The center, which is operated by BARC Developmental Services, provides services for children between ages 2 and 5 who have special needs. The Bucks County I.U. refers preschoolers with special needs to programs such as the Friendship Circle Center and transports them, Perotti said.
A woman who answered the phone at the center referred questions to BARC’s executive director, Robert Schram. A woman who answered the phone at the main office in Buckingham said the incident hadn’t yet been “made public,” Schram wasn’t available and the agency would have no comment at this time. The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching Schram for comment through his business email.
The child, who Bristol Township Police Lt. Guy Sava described as “diminutive” in stature, was picked up at his Bensalem home Tuesday morning and taken to the Friendship Circle Center.
After dropping off the children, the driver drove the van home, which is allowed under I.U. policy, said Rebecca Roberts-Malamis, I.U. assistant operations director and in-house legal counsel. A preliminary investigation indicates the driver didn’t realize the boy was inside the van until after she returned to the center around noon to pick up the children, Roberts-Malamis said.
When the driver asked about the whereabouts of the boy, a center employee told her he hadn’t been dropped off in the morning, Roberts-Malamis said. “That made her realize she had picked him up,” she added.
The driver and Friendship Circle staff immediately went to the van, where they found the boy in the back row of the 10-passenger vehicle, Perotti said. He was immediately removed and given liquids. A BARC nurse took care of the boy until paramedics arrived and his family was immediately notified, Perotti added.
As part of its investigation, Perotti said the I.U. is looking at BARC’s policies to determine what steps employees took after realizing the boy was absent Tuesday.
Sava said the van driver wasn’t operating her usual vehicle, but Perotti said the van was identical to the one she usually drives.
Perotti emphasized that van drivers are repeatedly reminded about the I.U.’s policy of checking to ensure all students are dropped off every single time. She said the policy also is outlined in the employee handbook that drivers are told to read and must sign a paper saying they’ve read.
“This is definitely atypical. Our drivers are taught that it is our protocol that they must check the vehicle when kids are dropped off at all locations,” Perotti added. “We definitely don’t tolerate any conduct inconsistent to this policy. We absolutely regret this has happened; transporting our precious children each day requires careful planning and coordination keeping student safety at the forefront.”
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014
Joshua Johnson recently purchased a surveillance camera that he mounted outside his Winder Village home, overlooking the front door.
But when Bristol Township police went looking for the camera after Johnson and two men were shot there, all they found was an empty camera mount and a broken wire hanging, according to a search warrant filed in the July 8 shooting.
In the weeks since the triple shooting that left Johnson and another man dead, police have released little information about their ongoing investigation, which was initially described as a possible home invasion. But a search warrant filed the day of the murders provides new details into the gruesome crime scene.
According to the warrant, a Winder Drive resident called 911 shortly after 12:30 a.m. to report a man was at his front door claiming he was shot. The resident recognized the wounded man as someone who hung out at Johnson’s home.
When police arrived they found Lamel Duffy, 24, of Middletown, lying on the front porch of the home bleeding profusely. He was wearing only black underwear, but police later found a bloody T-shirt on the front porch, according to the warrant.
Duffy was conscious. He had a gunshot wound to his back. He told police that he was shot at Johnson’s home at 913 Winder Drive.
Duffy told police the shooters wore masks, according to the warrant. He was taken to Aria Health’s Torresdale campus in critical condition; his current condition was not immediately available Sunday.
At Johnson’s home, police found a Chevy Impala with a Pennsylvania license plate parked in the driveway. A check of PennDOT records found no registered owner, according to the warrant.
The driver’s side door of the Impala was open and a large amount of blood was on and around the car, the warrant said. Also found in the driveway was a pair of black pants with blood stains.
Officers followed a blood trail to the front door and inside Johnson’s home. The front screen door was closed, but the security door was open, revealing the living room. Inside, police found a strong odor of burnt marijuana had a “heavy” amount of lingering marijuana smoke in the living room, the warrant said.
Police also found multiple bags and containers of suspected marijuana, along with a floor safe, a box of .44 magnum ammunition with six bullets missing and almost $1,900, according to the warrant.
After entering the home, police found Tyrone Moss, 31, of Bristol Township, face down on the living room floor. His hands were tied behind his back. Police later retrieved several plastic zip-ties in the home.
Moss was unconscious and unresponsive and later pronounced dead at the scene; officers saw a spot of blood on the back of his shirt close to his neck. On a couch near Moss, two fired .40-caliber casing shells were found, according to the warrant.
Johnson, who used a wheelchair after friends said he was paralyzed in a robbery, was found on the dining room floor. He was also unresponsive, but alive, with a gunshot wound to the back of his head. He was taken to Aria Torresdale, where he was placed on life support and died a day later.
Police retrieved a fired bullet; a .40-caliber shell casing was found on the floor near him along with a pair of latex gloves, the warrant said.
Shortly before 2 a.m., police noticed a second car, a white Acura Vigor with Pennsylvania plates. It was parked against the flow of traffic on the street in front of Johnson’s home, according to the warrant.
What appeared to be two smeared bloody handprints were found on the hood.
But like the Impala, a PennDOT check found no registered owner listed, according to the warrant.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Posted: Monday, July 14, 2014
For more than a month, a 35-year-old Falls man was locked up in Bucks County prison after he was arrested on misdemeanor drug possession charges.
Twice, his preliminary hearing was continued because test results weren’t available on the suspected narcotics police confiscated. At his third court appearance last month, the man learned the results were still not ready.
The problem, Bucks County prosecutor Seth Lupton explained, is the volume of drug evidence that needs to processed has caused a three-month backlog at the county lab. The district judge in the Falls case continued the hearing again and reduced the man’s bail from 10 percent of $10,000 to unsecured bail (no money needed) so he could be released.
Repeated long delays involving pending county crime lab test results have caused frustration among the county’s legal community and have prompted other Bucks County district court judges recently to dismiss some drug cases, forcing prosecutors to re-file charges. The delays also tie up the police officers who must be in court to testify rather than being on patrol, according to police officials.
“The backlogs have created significant scheduling problems,” Morrisville District Judge Michael Burns said. “With the labs not being ready on time, if the commonwealth doesn’t timely request a continuance it results in a huge waste of resources.”
But soon the situation is expected to change, in large part because of common — though controversial — on-site police drug screenings that until recently were rarely used for preliminary hearings in Bucks County, according to police.
Field drug testing — also called NIK testing — can initially identify suspected narcotics. Most local police departments have field drug testing kits, but officials said few performed the tests regularly since they’re considered insufficient evidence for a conviction and require followup lab testing.
Earlier this year, the Bucks County Minor Judiciary distributed a memo to magisterial courts informing them that case law has found that on-site drug field test results should be admissible evidence at a preliminary hearing for cases involving possession of a controlled substance. However, there’s no policy requiring that district court judges accept those test results, said Bob Pollack, deputy court administrator for Pennsylvania’s Minor Judiciary.
Bucks County’s chief of prosecution, Matt Weintraub, said as long as police officers have the proper formal training to perform the tests and a background in narcotics, it’s the DA’s position that the test results are admissible, but that the judges will have the final discretion at the preliminary hearing level. He also said district courts in at least 11 other Pennsylvania counties — including neighboring Montgomery County — accept field test results.
“We are just using these tests to confirm what we already know and the probable cause already supports,” he said.
But the tests are not without controversy over their reliability.
A 2008 study funded by the Marijuana Policy Project alleged that field drug tests can produce false positive results with legal substances that include motor oil, natural soap and soy milk. The study focused on the most common type of field tests, which use color test chemical reagents.
Newtown Township criminal defense attorney Keith Bidlingmaier is among those who believe the tests aren’t foolproof.
“I still believe that a defendant should have the right to challenge a chemical test even at a preliminary hearing,” he said.
Weintraub said he believes the field test kits are accurate.
“I don’t have any concerns about false positives because this is — and will be for the foreseeable future — a preliminary test,” he said. “We will always serve to be backed up by the crime labs results.”
Generally, local police departments have used field test kits only to initially identify what drugs are involved so they know how to charge suspects.
Some had seen the test as a waste of time and money since they believed the court wouldn’t accept the results, Morrisville Police Chief George McClay said.
After he became chief in February, McClay, a former Philadelphia police officer, said he was shocked to learn about the months’ long holdups with drug-related cases.
“I was amazed we weren’t doing this (field tests),” he said. “This isn’t rocket science.”
Drug field tests are standard practice in the Philadelphia Police Department and the city’s municipal court system as long as lab tests confirm the results, according to McClay and other law enforcement officials.
McClay said he reached out to law enforcement officials about conducting formal countywide police training in the correct use of drug field tests. The first training session was held in Morrisville on June 19 and attended by police from around the county. The Sirchie Finger Print Labs in North Carolina held the training.
More training sessions are planned and McClay said he anticipates all Bucks County police departments will have officers trained by the end of the summer.
“This should work out really well,” he added. “This should be helping the local district judges.”
Lower Southampton Detective Shane Hearn was among the officers who attended the June training.
“As long as you are reading the test, it’s just about idiot-proof,” he said.
All Bristol Township narcotics officers are trained in field testing, Lt. Terry Hughes said. He said false positives are always a concern, but only a small one.
“For the most part, they (field test kits) are very reliable for preliminary purposes,” he said.