News Roundup

If you’ve been to Walmart lately, you know that there are hardly any cashiers anymore. The retail giant seems intent on getting us all to use its self-checkout kiosks where shoppers scan their own merchandise and bag it too. Pretty much every time I shop there, the kiosk alerts, suggesting that I may have “missed a scan.” I flag down the harried employee who is supposed to be keeping an eye on at least a half-dozen kiosks, and he or she straightens things out. But beware the shopper who actually does miss a scan . . . or perhaps misses several scans. Fox News reports that “[a] Michigan woman is being charged after allegedly stealing items from Walmart by not scanning all of her items at the self-checkout.” I was initially outraged on behalf of Walmart shoppers everywhere, though my outrage diminished significantly upon reading that surveillance footage allegedly shows the shopper in question failing to scan over $1000 in goods over a period of months. Keep reading for more news.

Serial killer in Iowa, maybe. NBC news reports on a truly sensational story arising in the nation’s hog capital. The news broke when an Iowa woman alleged that “her late father was a prolific serial killer who murdered dozens of people over decades.” She claims that he brought sex workers from Omaha to his rural property, murdered them, then enlisted his children in disposing of their bodies. The local sheriff is investigating. A cadaver dog has alerted to an area near a well on the property but no bodies have yet been found. The woman’s sister disputes her claims, telling CNN that her father was “strict” but loving and definitely not a serial killer.

Sentencing news from the January 6 attack. I have not followed closely the hundreds of criminal cases arising from the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol. However, two sentencing stories caught my eye this week, in part because they are so different. Politico has the first story, which states that a “rioter who wielded a hatchet and smashed two windows with a flagpole will serve no jail time” after “a federal judge . . . [found] that Asperger’s syndrome made him susceptible to the influence of the mob.” Prosecutors had recommended a 57-month sentence, but the man’s 15-minute personal statement to the court, in which he “visibly struggled to complete thoughts and sentences” while apologizing for his conduct, appeared to affect the judge.

Meanwhile, CNN reports here that “[t]he man who pulled former Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police officer Michael Fanone into the crowd of violent rioters on January 6 . . . was sentenced Thursday to 90 months behind bars.” The defendant, Albuquerque Head, initially grabbed Fanone and told him, “I’m going to get you out of here.” Fanone answered “thank you.” Then Head pulled him into the crowd, and shouted “I got one” before the mob beat Fanone into unconsciousness. Fanone addressed the court during sentencing and asked that the court “[s]how Mr. Head the same mercy he showed me on January 6. None.”

Philadelphia’s progressive district attorney facing possible impeachment. Larry Krasner was overwhelmingly re-elected as Philadelphia’s district attorney last fall, but there is a possibility he will be removed from office soon. The Philadelphia Inquirer explains here that Krasner is at odds with the Republican-led Pennsylvania legislature over policy differences, job performance, and Krasner’s refusal to testify behind closed doors to a legislative committee. The conflict has been high-profile and things seem to be heating up as a 22-page impeachment resolution has now been filed. I know diddly squat about Pennsylvania politics, but apparently a simple majority in the state House would be enough to impeach, while a two-thirds majority in the state Senate would be needed to remove Krasner from office. If it comes down to a partisan divide, Republicans do not currently have a two-thirds majority in the state Senate thought half the seats in the chamber are up for election this year.

Update on Steve Bannon’s sentencing. Last week’s news roundup noted that Steve Bannon, former strategist to then-President Trump, was facing sentencing as a result of his conviction for contempt of Congress. He was sentenced to four months in prison, a term that was within the applicable range under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. As was widely expected, the judge allowed Bannon to remain free pending his appeal, which his attorney confidently maintained was “bulletproof.” USA Today has the details here.

Barr op-ed on rising violent crime. Former Attorney General William Barr had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week, arguing that “[t]he violent crime surge was preventable,” and was “caused by progressive politicians reverting to the same reckless revolving-door policies that during the 1960s and ’70s produced the greatest tsunami of violent crime in American history.” Of course, everyone doesn’t agree with that thought process. For example, Anthony Barr (no relation) and Kristen Broady at the Brookings Institution have written that “[d]ramatically increasing incarceration is the wrong response to the recent uptick in homicides and violent crime.”