Free murder suspect by mistake, give him a ride home! UPDATED

Here’s the first half of the story:

A man facing a murder charge has been mistakenly released from jail — about a year after he was arrested for allegedly dousing another man with gasoline, throwing him into a Rio Arriba County arroyo and lighting him on fire.

Authorities are now scrambling to find 22-year-old Toby Gonzales. But they’re also trying to figure out how a murder suspect was not only freed Saturday but also apparently was given a 220-mile ride home from Gallup to Española — by jail staff, no less…

Gonzales and co-defendant Rudy Salazar, 32, face murder charges in Steven Duran’s death. The three men were partying together in the foothills between El Guique and El Duende when Duran and Gonzales began yelling at each other. Gonzales and Salazar loaded Duran in the bed of his truck. He was tied up, set on fire and dumped in an arroyo, about a mile outside Ojo Caliente, according to a State Police statement.

Gonzales was being held at the McKinley County jail in Gallup after being transferred from the Rio Arriba County jail Feb. 16. A bench warrant for Gonzales’ arrest filed in state District Court in Santa Fe on Monday states that Gonzales was, “without authorization,” released from the jail in Gallup and driven by jail staff to Española.

There, Gonzales, of nearby El Guique, walked away a free man

Here’s the second half:

Family members of the murder victim said they are the ones who notified authorities he was free after friends spotted the suspect walking around Espanola, New Mexico.

Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office picked up Toby Gonzales, 22, outside of Espanola Tuesday morning…

He was supposed to have a bond-reduction hearing on Feb. 25, but somehow, he was let go. His new bond hearing will take place March 4 in Santa Fe District Court.

If you know anyone in New Mexico – ask them if this sort of incident is a surprise? It may sound like a comic opera; but, this absolutely fits the New Mexico model for policing, jurisprudence and the penal system.

“Oh, well, that happened, again. Shucks.”

UPDATE: Turns out releasing this thug wasn’t an accident. All is explained.

Someone called the jail saying they were from the Sheriff’s office in Rio Arriba county and told the jailers they could release Gonzales. The paperwork was on the way.

So they released him. Duh!

Presbyterian Church deadlocked over Gay minister

An ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church USA who once worked in Minneapolis has been acquitted by a church panel of charges that he violated the church constitution when he legally married his gay partner in California in 2008.

The case of the Rev. Erwin Barron, who was associate pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in the 1990s, is likely to be appealed. It is the first time the divided church, which sidestepped the issue of gay marriage at its national convention last summer in Minneapolis, has dealt with the possible discipline of a gay pastor who legally married a same-sex partner.

Barron, a college professor in San Francisco…faced a 2 1/2-hour trial before a presbytery panel of six at Oak Grove Presbyterian Church in Bloomington. After almost three hours of closed deliberations, the panel split 3-3. A two-thirds vote was required for conviction, which lawyers said could have led to defrockment.

“I’m relieved,” Barron said. “I wish it was more definitive. … The decision is not clear for the church.”

The Rev. Neil Craigan, a White Bear Lake pastor who was on the prosecuting committee, said his group will consider an appeal. The case could rise to the synod level and possibly to the national church for final disposition.

“I think there is a high probability that we will appeal to get more clarity on the issues that we face as a denomination,” Craigan said. “We’ve never had a trial of this kind before.”

But of course churches often have had trials like this one.

RTFA for all the gory details, rationales over why a church should aid in homophobia and diminishing the civil rights of Americans.

Toyota Prius+ – a hybrid for soccer moms

As the second size extension of the Toyota Prius family tree, the 2012 Prius+ adds a healthy dose of roominess to the well-known fuel-sipping hybrid equation, and it’s making its world debut at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show. There’s seating for seven occupants inside, but the multi-purpose vehicle shares a clear design language with Toyota’s standard-bearing Prius. What’s more, it manages a low 0.29 drag coefficient thanks to its extended roofline and carefully designed front fascia.

Equally as notable is the battery. This is the first lithium-ion battery pack to be incorporated within a non-plug-in Toyota full hybrid. Toyota has found enough room underneath the center console between the driver and the front passenger to fit the battery, which helps maximize interior space for occupants and their cargo.

As you would expect from a Prius, there are three drive modes: A zero-emission EV mode that relies on electric motor power alone, an ECO mode that maximizes efficiency and fuel economy and finally a somewhat ambitiously named POWER mode that is said to boost overall performance.

Toyota is saying that the Prius+ will be on sale in Europe in the first half of 2012, but it’s coming to the U.S. around the same time in the form of the Prius V, which we previously saw at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show.

The 2nd model of an extended platform Prius from Toyota. We’re getting past DINKs who are early adopters. Families – with family activities – are being pressed by knowledge, acceptance and economics to move to intelligent transportation choices.

I hate to sound overly optimistic; but – like personal savings – as often as American gullibility trends economic and political habits back into same-old habits, it appears that a bit more knowledge seems to promote at least a small measure of intelligent self-interest that sticks.

Fort Bragg evacuations sparked by Haiti election robocalls!

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission is investigating last year’s series of fervent campaign “robo-calls” by Haitian presidential candidate Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, which led to evacuations at the Fort Bragg military base…

In the weeks prior to Haiti’s November election, anyone who had ever placed a call to Haiti received a string of pre-recorded calls from Martelly. After the Jan. 12 earthquake, the list included countless Haitian Americans, journalists, non-profit groups and the U.S. military.

They heard Martelly shouting in Creole, urging the Diaspora to support tet kale – the bald-headed one. His frantic tone even spooked the U.S. Army.

“There were people who didn’t understand what it was and speculated it was a terrorist threat in a foreign language,” said Fort Bragg spokesman Ben Abel. “Two or three buildings where the calls came in were evacuated.”

On Nov. 17, the Army criminal investigations team swept the cleared buildings for explosives and listened to recordings left on voice mailboxes, Abel said. “I listened to it and thought: ‘That’s not Arabic. That’s not Pashto. That sounds like French,” Abel said…

“We are aware of the situation and are looking into the matter,” said Robert Kenny, director of media relations for the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. “The Commission aggressively enforces provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which generally prohibits delivery of prerecorded messages to residential phones and also prohibits the use of automatic telephone dialing equipment in certain situations, such as calls to emergency lines, hospitals, and mobile phones.”

He noted that the law applies not only to calls made within the United States, but also to calls made from outside the country to U.S. phones.

Not only do we waste taxpayers dollars running and hiding from a freaking phone call because no one at an Army base recognized Creole – now, in their infinite wisdom, the FCC will waste more taxpayer dollars investigating what? That the calls took place? That they didn’t meet federal regulations? That they may apply exactly what sanctions to the company in Haiti that placed the robocalls?

The terrorists have won.

More dirt about Tony Blair’s ‘deal in the desert’ with Gaddafi

Tony Blair used his final foreign trip as prime minister to sign a confidential deal with Muammar Gaddafi to train Libyan special forces and supply him with Nato secrets.

A copy of the accord obtained by The Daily Telegraph shows that the two leaders agreed to co-operate on defence matters in a range of areas, including exchanging information about defence structures and technology.

It was signed during the former Labour prime minister’s “Blair-well” tour of Africa in May 2007, in Gaddafi’s tent in the Libyan desert.

Included in the document was an agreement on “co-operation in the training of specialised military units, special forces and border security units”. They also signed up to “exchanges of information on Nato and EU military and civil security organisations”. The document was personally signed by Mr Blair and Gaddafi…

The two countries also agreed to co-operate in “training in operational planning processes, staff training, and command and control; training of personnel in peace support operations; training co-operation relating to software, communications security, technology and the function of equipment and systems; exchanges of information and experience in the laws of armed conflict; and the acquisition of equipment and defence systems’’…

Yup. The context was different; but, oil was the predominant rationale for every aspect of treaty negotiations between Blair and Gaddafi. As it is for pretty much everything in the Middle East negotiated by western democracies.

With little or no concern for the last word in that sentence.

Supreme Court says dying man’s words can stand at trial

A mortally wounded man’s identification of his assailant may be repeated by police officers in court, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday. The 6-to-2 decision was a significant retreat from the court’s recent embrace of the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause, which guarantees criminal defendants the right to confront witnesses against them.

Justice Antonin Scalia had been the leading proponent of a robust interpretation of the Confrontation Clause, and Monday’s decision drew a slashing dissent from him. He called the majority’s account of the facts of the case “so transparently false that professing to believe it demeans this institution…”

Justice Sotomayor, responding to criticism from Justice Scalia, acknowledged that determining whether the primary purpose of a crime victim’s statement was to provide information about past events or to aid in addressing a current emergency requires “a highly context-dependent inquiry…”

Justice Scalia’s dissent was comprehensively critical of the majority’s approach. He said it represented a significant shift away from the court’s 2004 ruling in Crawford v. Washington, which had breathed new life into the Confrontation Clause…

Justice Scalia added that the majority had smuggled back into the law a factor that the Crawford decision had rejected — whether the out-of-court statements were “reliable.”

Dispensing with confrontation because testimony is obviously reliable is akin to dispensing with jury trial because a defendant is obviously guilty,” Justice Scalia wrote for the majority in Crawford. “This is not what the Sixth Amendment prescribes.”

An essentially Republican court renders an essentially conservative opinion. One that reeks of frontier justice and the laws of Judge Lynch.

With no right to confront and question a witness defendants lose a basic constitutional right.