Thursday, December 31, 2020
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Criminal-justice “reform” in New York has turned our courts into a merry-go-round, with violent offenders free to jump off at will.
The latest outrage took place in The Bronx, where 16-year-old Jordon Benjamin allegedly stabbed Amya Hicks in mid-December. Arrested a few days later, he was charged with felony assault and assorted lesser charges. Amya Hicks needed surgery and spent several days in the hospital. Benjamin was less inconvenienced: He only spent a few hours in a holding cell before being released on his recognizance, without having to post bail.
It’s bad enough that an alleged knife-wielding thug who slashes neighborhood women got to gallivant out of jail. But the story becomes downright enraging when we learn that Benjamin was already facing manslaughter charges — and the same judge let him out twice.
On Christmas Eve 2019, young Benjamin and some of his mates allegedly took time out from their holiday festivities to assault Juan Fresnada, a 60-year-old Bronx man. They stomped on him and brained him with a garbage can. Fresnada died, and Benjamin and his crew got away with $1.
In his brief career, Benjamin is already the beneficiary of multiple aspects of New York state’s criminal-justice “reform” measures, which our progressive leaders and professional activist class have hailed as “monumental” steps to “create a fairer and more humane” system, in the words of Mayor de Blasio.
Benjamin was originally held in a youth correctional facility until he was released in March because of the pandemic. This was part of a massive drawdown in the city’s jail population, which dovetailed with the push to free as many inmates as possible in expectation of closing Rikers Island.
“The number of New Yorkers held in NYC jails has plummeted, shrinking by 27 percent in 10 weeks, a steeper population decline than in all of last year,” boasted the mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in May. “The jail population is at a number not seen since 1946.”
This would be fantastic news — if the decline in the inmate population was a function of a lower crime rate. But when it’s artificially imposed, it’s hardly cause for celebration. And while it may make sense to let certain nonviolent, older prisoners out of jail for health concerns, there is no evidence that teenagers like Benjamin, being held at juvenile correction facilities, are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
The extent to which the mass release of juvenile prisoners in March was a political decision, and not driven by “the science,” can be seen by the fact that as violence spiked throughout the spring, the city hesitated to release teenagers arrested for serious crimes. After balancing their low medical vulnerability against public-safety concerns, the number of detained youth rebounded to pre-pandemic levels by May.
This means that letting an alleged violent offender like Benjamin out in March was a big mistake, and one that the city quickly stopped making as shootings and stabbings spiked rapidly.
One would think that after allegedly committing another vicious assault this month, Benjamin would have at least been locked up. But Bronx County Supreme Court Acting Justice Denis Boyle decided to let him go, though he now faces separate charges of manslaughter and felony assault.
Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for the state Office of Court Administration, defended Boyle’s move, stating, “Judges follow the law, and the law clearly states that the least restrictive alternative should be the preeminent driver in bail consideration.”
The law Chalfen references is the infamous state bail “reform,” which eliminated cash bail for most non-violent offenses, which even de Blasio has cited as a contributing factor to the rise in violent crime. But the law doesn’t actually mandate “least-restrictive” alternatives for people accused of committing violent felonies, nor for individuals under probation or supervision or for “persistent offenders.”
But the current climate is permissive and encourages judges, cops and prosecutors to operate under the assumption that confinement is always the worst option. So they err in favor of criminals. Surely Jordon Benjamin is happier to be out of jail than in it while he awaits his trials for manslaughter and serious assault. Meanwhile, best of luck to the next person who has an unpleasant encounter with him.
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
New details have emerged about the deal Google and Facebook allegedly worked out to rig the lucrative online advertising market.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, says the code name was “a twist on a character name from Star Wars,” suggesting it might be tied to Aayla Secura, a blue-colored Jedi.
Google’s “unlawful agreement” with Facebook was allegedly hatched in return for the Mark Zuckerberg-led company refusing to embrace an ad-sales method called header bidding, which posed a threat to Google’s iron grip on the digital advertising marketplace.
Header bidding had been helping website publishers circumvent Google’s marketplace for buying and selling digital ads and had been leading to more favorable prices for publishers. The alternative network was so successful that by 2016 some 70 percent of major web publishers were using it, according to the states’ lawsuit.
If a major rival like Facebook Audience Network ad service, or FAN, embraced header binding, Google’s profitable monopoly over the ad marketplace would be kaput, the states alleged.
“Need to fight off the existential threat posed by header bidding and [Facebook Audience Network],” a Google advertising executive wrote in a 2017 email referenced in the suit.
That’s when Google approached Facebook about abandoning header bidding. In exchange, Google allegedly lowered Facebook’s transaction fees to between 5 and 10 percent, well below the 20 percent it charged others.
Facebook was also able to send its bids directly to Google’s ads server, rather than through an exchange, according to the report.
The search giant also kept Facebook abreast of which ad opportunities were the result of bot activity, helping the social network avoid wasting its money on useless impressions. Google denied the same information to other auction participants, the report said.
“In the end, Facebook curtailed its involvement with header bidding in return for Google giving Facebook information, speed and other advantages,” the lawsuit alleged.
Google replied that it did not manipulate any auctions and said that 25 other companies participate in its open bidding advertising program.
“There’s nothing exclusive about [Facebook’s] involvement, and they don’t receive data that is not similarly made available to other buyers,” Google said.
Facebook is also given nearly twice as much time as auction competitors to “recognize” mobile and web users and then bid on ads, according to the unredacted lawsuit.
The Texas-led case is pivotal for Google, which is reliant on advertising for much of its profits. Its parent company, Alphabet posted digital advertising revenue of $37.1 billion in its latest quarterly report.