Welcome! I follow American legal issues, international law issues, English language points, and international business and audit concerns. I'm usually responding to news, either with opinion or information, for Americans overseas and those interested in law, audit, or language concerns. These are filtered through my residence, in Norway.
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(Disclaimer: My blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.)
|Posted on July 25, 2018 at 9:50 AM|
It's a dark and cold wintry day in Norway. The sun rises about 9:30 a.m. and we're lucky - we're not up north. The sun goes down about 3:30 pm. It's not dark immediately, but then again, since when we say "The sun is up," we mean we can see it resting on the southern hillsides in the distance at high noon. You get the picture. It's a strange and forbidding routine, the landscape reflecting the quiet and independent spirits of the people, despite the desolation and loneliness,
A dark and cold year has also just passed in the U.S., full of blowing and bombastic egotisism, sociopathic soliloquies delivered in 140 words more, Twitter tweets, threaded together for the sake of emphasizing brutality, discrimination, rage, and designed, it seems, to foster momentum as much as anything.
From Trump's Day 1 as President, I, like millions of other Americans and citizens of the world, watched in horror as he unfolded one discriminatory position and action after another, all designed to foster his 'base' which, to be honest, is not the poor and unemployed he claims to serve, but the rich and well-connected. My own resistance movement began by telling him, surprisingly, to 'Shut Up' when he tweeted something ridiculous after becoming President. Surely, I thought, this man would realize he was driving a hard bargain by lighting up hatred and division via the globe's transparent but emphatically social media paths. Finally, I offered to run for President - in 4 years, not eight. I would run as a Republican or as a Democrat. I've been both in the past. I blamed the Mercer's and their rich and Jewish enclave for inciting more middle-Eastern hatred and division than already exists, while supporting occupiers against the occupied and for funding a madman, Mr. Bannon, to run Trump's campaign rhetoric values into the highly religious realm of right-wing hysteria.
Enough. We've all had enough already.
Now it's time to find out where we are. Where is that?
Why, it's in a state of "liminality". What is that? (Forgive me, I'm heavy-lifting):
"In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning "a threshold") is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual's liminal stage, participants "stand at the threshold" between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.
The concept of liminality was first developed in the early 20th century by anthropologist Arnold van Gennep and later taken up by Victor Turner. More recently, usage of the term has broadened to describe political and cultural change as well as rituals. During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt. The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established." (See www.definitions.net and other web resources.)"
And now I'm seeing signs of liminality entering into the American political debate.
I'm impressed with how well CNN, for example, is embracing a broad-based analysis of daily events. The Washington Post and New York Times are also showing continual innovation in covering the multiple strands of the modern political American drama in Washington D.C., federal offices across the land, and American Embassies around the globe.
I'm also blown away by the level of subterfuge infecting the Republican party itself, and the level of sheer shell-game and con-artist activity being conducted shamelessly and abusively in, around and on everyone surrounding Trump, his Department heads, his advisors and his media apologists.
It's time to recognize a new truth: Trump is a Shape-Changer, one that has used the Shape-changer model of behavior all of his life to: get what he wanted, do what he wanted, and say what he wanted.
His mental health is unstable, and his behavior is not only unpresidential, but not that of an enlightened human being in our world today.
He does not embrace the values that would bring him to act in a way that supports his actual Presidential duties, which he alternately glowers over, demanding glory and expressive praise from the pathetically-stationed talents that he's corralled into office, and disgustingly rejects, descending into Trumpian tantrums surrounding small slights - for example, in the ways he think sports stars should stand and when they should stand that way; for example, the way he attacks individuals whom he stings with his ridiculous and relentless nasty verbage - not even making much argument to excuse his obsessive attacks.
His version of a correct relationship is: Him telling you what the truth is, and you believing it, despite all the facts and evidence - despite even the most basic and obvious facts and evidence.
I believe I speak for the majority of our struggling but great nation in saying: We as Americans reject Trump and his ways. We wholeheartedly seek a democratic process and the re-establishment (yes, unfortunately, he's already managed to tear too much down) of accountability for upholding the health and welfare of our citizens. We need to re-embrace securing and assuring the quality of our air, water, lands and their protection. We need a process that re-asserts the significance of oversight of corporate activities, both environmentally and financially, so that the value of our economy's growth is shared with others and used to bring our middle class back into a balance, safe and secure, surrounded in all ways by the social and health safety net that our huge tax base can, in fact, afford when it is doing what it was designed to do.
Instead, we sit with the three monkeys - See no evil, Hear no evil and Do no evil, while the 'Dreamers' work their butts off, working in an America they embrace as their home and love, but in which they cannot vote or participate fully, hiding in plain sight.
Instead, we sit with a tax plan that will benefit the rich and not the poor and middle classes and that will benefit Trump in particular and his friends.
Instead, we sit without a budget and with a relentless attempt to undo the health service policies and procedures that would protect our nation's citizens, families and children, elderly and infirm, from total ruin, death, and the loss of their homes and livelihood.
Instead, we sit with a President whose list of conflicts of interest go on and on, most unresolved and few fully audited to date.
I'm not able to change the world, but I am able to call a Spade a Spade. Trump is a Spade. You don't want him in your court and you don't want him in your camp. He highjacked the Republican president election by bullying the rest of the candidates off the stage. This he considers his talent at being a 'smart' 'genius', and then he literally visibly stalked Hillary Clinton during their public candidates' debate on the stage.
This is the draft I wrote in January 2018. Guess it's about time to publish it - again.
|Posted on January 9, 2017 at 7:05 AM|
It's been a long hard slog to get through 2016 and not fall behind in my work. Actually impossible: as it stands, I'm still working on new catch-up tax return sets for Americans overseas who became aware of their filing obligations to the IRS last year - and those are soon completed!
You are welcome to contact me if you need to file US tax returns and are an American overseas. I continue to do this work and plan to work with another PTIN-registered preparer to take on new clients.
So what is the purpose of this blog post? It's more a short memo on the changing of the year, 2016 to 2017.
- You and I have less time to discuss the grave social and political needs of U.S. citizens, despite needing to do so more than ever, as we look towards Trump soon taking the presidency, a fact that instills fear and desperation in the hearts of millions of Americans.
- Tax news facts and tax return news are of special interest. I will be keeping my listed and accepted clients informed on these in my tax client newsletters.
- Communicative messages are now being relayed with ever-increasing brevity. This removes the value of the essay, the writer's development of a train of thought and argument. The entire capacity of our intelligence and mental capabilities is short-circuited into drops of meaning no larger than, well, a teardrop or a bird's small twitter. Instead of crying, at the moment, I'm doing my best with it - by visiting Twitter and Facebook and using them to share messages and articles I believe are of special interest to my readers.
- I am also working on writing longer works for publication. My writing to publish dream is not over and my determination to continue with my projects is stronger than ever. These will be given their time to ripen during 2017. Perhaps a flower of publication will bloom this year or next.
- You will find me on Facebook at the Facebook page, Edvenson Consulting. Feel free to 'like' this page and you may find yourself receiving weekly updates with an article or two to share and enjoy. You will also find me on Twitter at the Twitter name, pelicanposts. There, I'm making more regular small comments when news of special interest pops up - news or assertions in need of an intelligent reply or remark.
- The status of legal cases and stories I've worked on is dismaying:
- John Kristoffer Larsgard remains in Arizona prison, despite being eligible for transfer out of country to his own nation to finish his term - which has been lengthened repeatedly for supposedly bad behavior, such as attempting to assist a fellow inmate in returning his jacket to his room after a visit. A court case he brought against the system was nearly won when at the very last moment (jury had already deliberated) the judge called for the jury to stand down - thus permitting an out-of-court settlement no one will talk about, a nearly entire travesty of justice just continued and continuing. The bad prison treatment then continues, the isolation continues, the injustice continues. Tell me something different and I'll publish it.
- The state of mixed American-Norwegian children in Norway whose Norwegian mothers continue to mis-behave and violate Norwegian and international rights law and get away with it - refusing visitations, making up stories to ward off American fathers out of country, are sick and sad. They are examples of the very worst in human behavior - the behavior that looks away from "the best interests of the child" to the "the best interests of me" but gets it wrong: they are wrong and their arguments are wrong. The attorneys they hire in Norway are wrong and should be embarrassed to evade the law so brazenly in their representations. Their antics are effective without using much money and the Norwegain courts should do more to put a stop to it: they should permit out-of-country parents the right to sue in Norwegian courts and have court fees paid by the state during the court process. The state should then recoup those fees from the violater - yes, the little mother and her nasty attorney. This is the sad status of not one, but two stories I have worked with for years. It suits Norway to behave as if their system is perfectly in tune with international treaties and requirements when, in practice, it sucks. Yes, I did say that, sorry.
And that's just the 'tip of the iceberg' for me related to my work, Americans in America and Americans overseas.
So, with that, let's say: Happy New Year, 2017: may all injustices be righted in this year, and may those who have brought them about be punished and their influences removed. May those who follow the law live long and well, and may those who do not cooperate, abuse their position, and villify rightness - and, as well, place their personal goals above those of the public's health, safety and welfare - fail miserably.
|Posted on October 9, 2016 at 9:05 AM|
Congress: Give Republicans What They Deserve
The NPR commentator says, “Why?” Why have Republicans suddenly decided to abandon their support of Trump? Especially noting that those in ‘battleground states’ who are running for Congress as Republicans are taking a very active role in that abandonment.
Journalist 2 replies, saying, “That’s a real good question!”
Really? You think so?
And Paul Ryan - showing up at a rally to say that, despite the fact that he is not there to talk about Trump’s sexist comments, frankly he is really disgusted personally – and he really wonders what the heck is not right with a certain candidate for, you know, President.
Gee, I’m feeling a little clairvoyant then: I think I know why. And Paul, I’m really disgusted with, well, your disingenuous disgust. Because what is going on here is precision-driven. This party has had to – and has been planning for a long while to derail or split their support at the last minute if Trump turned out to be the crazy candidate he always promised to be – because, well, actual Republican Senators and real Republican House members, are trying to be re-elected. Or elected.
So let’s GLOAT OVER the PEOPLE’S POWER to change the course of Congress!
Who’s on the ballot? How many Senators are affected? How many Representatives are involved? Standing Republicans seeking re-election themselves or seeking to get another Republican elected to their already-Republican state or district?
I have been saying (for years) that we must get rid of the current Congress and get a new Congress, one that will actually do something. I could say, instead, do something good.
So, just to be clear, these are the people who spent THE LAST YEARS FAILING to coordinate politically with both the other side and our President, Barack Obama, and did nothing (except for themselves, the NRA and their own favorite pork projects) while holding high office.
These are the Republican Senators to VOTE AGAINST:
Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire)
Roy Blunt (Missouri)
John Boozman (Arkansas)
Richard Burr (North Carolina)
Dan Coat’s seat (Indiana) retiring in 2016
Mike Crapo (Idaho)
Chuck Grassley (Iowa)
John Hoeven (North Dakota)
Johnny Isakson (Georgia)
Ron Johnson (Wisconsin)
Mark Kirk (Illinois)
James Lankford (Oklahoma)
Mike Lee (Utah)
John McCain (Arizona)
Jerry Moran (Kansas)
Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Rand Paul (Kentucky)
Rob Portman (Ohio)
Marco Rubio (Florida)
Tim Scott (South Carolina)
Richard Shelby (Alabama)
John Thune (South Dakota)
Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania)
David Vitter’s seat (Louisiana) retiring in 2016
Again, in every one of these cases, vote for the Democratic candidates.
For those of you who are foreigners or did not have Government in high school, there are two houses to Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the House, the figures are even more dramatic: Yes, it is hard to believe, but according to www.ballotpedia.org, there are 19 Republicans who are actually retiring rather than run again. Luckily, there are only 9 do-nothing Democrats retiring in this election.
Currently, 24 of the 435 House seats, of those that are up for election this November, are expected to be competitive. (Many go always to the party-in-power.) And the general feeling of those reporting on such things is that there is doubt that the Democrats could become a majority in the House.
The current make-up of the Congress is: 187 Democrats and 247 Republicans. This totals 434 and there are 435 seats (one is empty pending a special election).
If ALL 24 seats classified as ‘truly competitive’ were to go to the Democrats, the House would have 211 Democrats and 223 Republicans. THAT WOULD BE AN EXCELLENT RESULT! Vote for the Democrats and DO YOUR PART to balance the powers of the two dominant parties in the House of Representatives.
In fact, in a long list of districts, the House winner is expected to win by less than 5 percent! So be SURE to VOTE AGAINST any Republicans in these Congressional races. If the Democrat is an incumbent, hard questions must be answered to gain your vote. IF the Democrat is brand-new to the race, great – go for it.
Representative races for 18 districts are already called a “toss up.” Decide to change that now – in a positive, Democratic direction. Then there are those that are leaning Democratic, which already total more than those districts that are leaning Republican. Hurray!
Should things get even closer, an additional 8 districts’ Representatives will be in danger. (www.ballotpedia.org)
As well, it’s going to be a very exciting general election for Congress – an ‘open season’ in a way – since not many ‘incumbents’ were defeated in their own party primary races. So the boring old Congress members are still carrying most of their ticket places on the ballots.
Back to the question that the national journalist is asking: “Why?” are the Republicans playing a self-destructive take-back, play-back dodge - and so near the touchdown line? Because they want to do nothing to create a consistent public policy while, at the same time, protect with evasive excuses their abuses of their positions of public service. They want to NOT be sucked down with the dross flowing from Trump’s campaign mouth, but also manage to evade losing their privileges. The problem is that their privilege is, actually, to act - positively and together - to take positions that HELP the health, safety and welfare of the people in their states and districts. Along with guiding foreign policy in positive and effective directions, this is the ONLY thing they are asked to do while in Congress. And, for the most part, they have not been doing it.
So, welcome to the insanity! But be sure to toss most of the Republicans’ back-pedaling bull into the garbage where it belongs, by voting Democratic. And DO try to vote for someone with the public’s good at heart when you make your choice for your Congressional Senators and Representatives. You know what result I would like. I actually care about the people of the United States of America. Make me happy.
- June Edvenson is an American attorney and former candidate for Judge in Cook County, Illinois, for the Republican party. As such, she could say what she believed and thought should be changed, while knowing that the Democratic machine was sufficiently entrenched and corrupt to assure the delivery of the victory to all Democrats in the general elections. She is now an American living and working overseas and has already cast her ballot for President and members of Congress by absentee ballot from her last permanent residency in the U.S. She encourages all Americans in the U.S. and overseas to vote in all elections in which they qualify to vote.
|Posted on April 16, 2016 at 7:20 AM|
Greetings from Norway: Follow the Money, Panama Papers
The Panama Papers are a real hit in the Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten. Each day, new revelations follow, along with the obfuscations and changing explanations of DNB Bank’s President, Rune Bjerke. I have to admit I found him a jerk when I called him accidentally some years ago. (There is another Rune Bjerke in the Oslo area who should not be confused with this man.) DNB’s president kept me on the phone, mocking me in a continuing spiral of chatter meant to make me feel timid, small and apologetic for simply having reached the wrong phone number. But now I am already digressing.
What should a bank do with its money? And what should the Norwegian bank (that would be: DNB) do when the State of Norway is an owner? Not just banks – there are several companies with important global operations – in oil, technology, minerals, manufacturing – that are partially or majority owned by the State of Norway.
Beate Sjafjell has written a critique in the Aftenposten that I found interesting. I’d like to share it with you. This article appeared in the Aftenposten, Norway’s leading newspaper, the only Norwegian paper involved in the Panama Papers research activity. Beate Sjåfjell is a Norwegian attorney and Law School Faculty at the Norwegian Law School of the University of Oslo.
Her article, translated by me below, was published only in Norwegian. I am translating it here into what I call ‘transparent English’ so that others will see it and read it. . . . And ask related questions.
It’s key to raising not only questions about how the Norwegian state manages the mega-billions it holds in its ‘Oil Fund’, now called the ‘Pension Fund’, but it also begs the question I’m trying to see the answer to – even in the Panama Papers revelations: Where is the money going? Follow the money? Where does the money lead it? Not just to Panama . . .
After all, when the money gets to Panama, someone wants it there for a price. The price they’ll pay for that means they are interested in borrowing it or using it while it is ‘parked there’ - for some other, further purpose. That purpose could be economic activity involving drugs, illegal trade in arms, even legal trade in arms, trade in humans, body parts, medicines, drugs, any commodity for which is sought a market underneath the ‘white market’s radar system and into the (non-taxed, or lower-taxed black market, any objective that makes someone else a lot of money at less expense and means more profits in more secret private pockets related to more secret goals and, well, nasty, unfair or unethical activities.
As my favorite audit manager supervisor, Kevin Carhill, always said, “Follow the money.” I’m trying, but I don’t see the end of the Panama Papers trail yet. I really hope we do!
It’s hard to prove a negative, but you tell me: can I be positive that not one single Norwegian crown (kroner) has gone to buy one single gun in Syria? One single bomb in the Middle East?
Then there is a habit, apparent in Norway’s State company ownership interests, of not asking hard questions in the right forum. From where I come from (Illinois), at least we had The Open Meetings Act, even if politicians and cronies were busy hustling around avoiding it when they wanted to break, in particular, the labor laws. And we had the Corporations Act, which told owners of companies how to behave when they made decisions. Norway should take a lesson in this.
Here is Beate’s article I enjoyed so much. The sub-titles and cut-out quotes are scattered around, unfortunately, making it a bit harder to follow. Still, fantastic work. Thank you, Professor Sjafjell, for your insights and suggestions:
“Government failed shareholdings
The Norwegian State’s Ownership Report provides no indications that the government will deal with the extremely harmful and short-term pressure for maximum profit. This comes at the expense of social responsibility.
What do Yara, Statoil, Telenor, Hydro, Kongsberg,, DNB Bank, and Kvaerner have in common? They all have the State as a shareholder (indirectly on Kvaerner’s part), and all have, during recent times, been accused of being involved in crimes or unethical conduct. How can this happen with a government shareholder who claims to have clear expectations of social responsibility?
Profit before corporate social responsibility
The Norwegian Minister of Business argues that the state is clear that profit should not be at the expense of legal and corporate governance (White Paper 27 (2013-2014, "A diverse and value-creating ownership - "Ownership Report"). The Ownership Report shows the opposite. It states emphatically repeatedly that the main objective is the maximization of profits/returns.
The state has no legal obligation to always do what maximizes profits.
Government expectations for corporate social responsibility are, in content, praiseworthy. But they are coming long after the message, sandwiched in between the expectations of the highest possible returns and guidelines on executive pay.
Neither returns nor executive pay are explicitly related to social responsibility. The main point is profitability. Working with social responsibility should help to "protect shareholder value." One fourth of the pages in the 122-page message are devoted to adhering and expectations concerning social responsibility.
Missing the will to lead
The Ownership Report points out the problem as companies with many small shareholders, who can be seen to be without strong shareholder control – i.e. "ownerless" companies. The state obviously does not consider that the same applies to a company with a state majority shareholder - who dares not run it.
The bottom line is profitability. Work with social responsibility should help to "protect shareholder value.
The state is in a double role as a public shareholder, whether passive or active. The state seems to want to manage its dual role by giving the impression of being aloof and not exerting direct influence on these companies.
The government can exercise authority at the AGM (the Annual General Meeting)
The state claims that it cannot do more than choose a competent board. That is wrong. At the AGM, shareholders exercise the highest authority in the company. Here, the State has, as majority shareholder (in Telenor, Statoil, and Kongsberg) control; and as a large minority shareholder (in Yara, Hydro, DNB Bank, Kvaerner Aker Holding) significant influence.
The state has no legal obligation to always do what maximizes profit. The State could ,through selected, strategic decisions at the AGM meetings, show that, for example, zero tolerance for corruption means “saying ‘No, thanks” to some projects. The State’s capacity and opportunity for influence, both nationally and internationally, is formidable.
Missing Transparency in Company Shareholder meetings (AGMs)
Instead, the state uses the AGM to elect the board and to “sprinkle sand” (slow down progress) on their proposals. The state argues that it addresses important questions in the so-called ownership meetings between State department staff and company leaders.
The state is breaking with its own principles of good corporate governance: There should be transparency knitted into the ownership activity, and decisions and resolutions should be conducted at the AGM meeting. The ‘ownership dialogue’ should be tied, in addition, to the AGM, not be replaced by other meetings.
The state should be an active and socially responsible shareholder
The state is afraid to scare off other investors. Consideration of other shareholders and the market means that the government’s representatives should refrain from partisan political power activity and other arbitrariness.
There is little that separates the state from a private profit-maximizing shareholder.
This does not mean that the state should refrain from being an active and socially responsible shareholder and only try to influence decisions in closed meetings. Active and socially responsible share ownership activities can be conducted in a predictable and orderly manner within the framework of company law and ethical principles and in line with the government's own overall objectives and international obligations.
The hunt for current profit maximization
Short-term profit maximization pressures make it difficult for companies to propose tough enough requirements when they enter into corrupt countries. The Ownership Report itself notes that leaders are feeling the pressure for short-term profit maximization as a growing problem.
Public shareholding company direction could propose greater long-term focus and a willingness to put social responsibility before profit, also in the form of proposing an ultimatum for transparency in business dealings with all corrupt regimes.
Long-term focus is mentioned - with exception
Instead, we see that the message emphasizes, time after time, that the main consideration is maximization of invested capital, and when long-term focus is mentioned, the need for continued short-term returns at the same time is emphasized.
The consultant network, such as PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) is a part of, and among those whose facilitation has given us the Panama Papers scandals.
The signal is that profit is the goal and all else should be managed as well as one can, with the exception that it must support the goal of maximizing profits. There is little that separates the state from a private profit-maximizing shareholder. There is nothing that suggests that the state should have settled and agreed to something of extreme damage, or short-term pressure for maximum profit.
What is the Department of Business doing?
The Norwegian Department of Business, which has the overarching responsibility for the state’s shareholder ownership management, has asked the Attorney firm within Price Waterhouse Coopers for help. PWC should discuss and report on the companies and the Department follow up messages concerning owner’s expectations to work against corruption and towards transparency in economic transactions well enough.
Secretiveness is just a symptom.
The consultant network sits on all sides of the table
These consulting networks, such as PWC is a part of, are among those additional agents who have given us the Panama Papers scandal. These consultant communities are sitting on all sides of the table, alongside, preparing the ground for the owners’ reports, facilitating services of the companies, and then evaluating whether the companies and the state government’s ownership activities work well enough.
That a consultancy environment that is so well integrated into this system, which obviously does not work, should be the one to give systemic, thoroughly persuasive assessments of what is the problem and what should be changed should be unthinkable. Unless the government takes a completely different grip, we ought to expect new scandals.”
-June Edvenson is a former Illinois State Senior Auditor. She worked as an auditor for the State of Illinois for 7 years in Springfield and Chicago. She is an American attorney now living and working in Norway.
|Posted on January 29, 2016 at 5:40 PM|
John Kristoffer Larsgard – Consistent Sabotage
At the risk of putting this Norwegian citizen at greater risk of harm than he already is exposed to in Arizona state prison, let us look more closely at what we know since his prison sentence began. I would like to tie this to what is happening now, however, in part due to its urgency. See, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” as Paul Newman put it in the film, Cool Hand Luke. Kris has sought to argue, since he was first placed in the Navajo County Jail, that he required medical attention – care, treatment and medicines he did not receive. He has, since, also sought to argue that his sentence was excessive. He has tried to study the law and has written his own motions (in English) to achieve re-hearing. Meanwhile, both prison administrators and medical care authorities have consistently sabotaged both his physical and mental well-being for no other purpose than to disrupt and ‘route’ his efforts, causing them to come to nothing. You can try to draw another conclusion from what I write here, but it is hard to argue that every prisoner is treated in this way. Sure, no one is perfect, but no one deserves to be treated as Kris has been in the time between September 24, 2011 and today.
Let’s start with this month, January, 2016. Kris was seen by a medical professional who confirmed on January 12th that Kris should be kept on the pain and anti-seizure medications he has been taking, including methadone. You know methadone is habit-forming, similar to heroin and is used to treat heroin addicts? Apparently, methadone helps Kris with the constant pain he has experienced since the “spinal cord injury of 2013” which occurred in Arizona prison. The professional also recommends updated imaging of the cervical and thoracic spine and recommends he see a neurologist. Other suggestions for possible spinal cord care were encouraged in the letter report.
Yet, on January 19th, he is brought from the detention unit he was in to an observation room where he is confronted by the nurse who earlier sabotaged his care in April of 2015 at another prison, Florence prison. The prison had discontinued two of his medications and he had complained, which was why she was seeing him. She indicated she had discontinued the two medications because she ‘did not believe they were appropriate treatment’ for him. She also said she was discontinuing methadone because “you just want drugs.” (Note the Catch-22.) Kris states that he tried calmly to tell her that the drugs were actually helping him function and without them he was in excruciating pain. The nurse then tells him that this is “decided” and that Kris will have to learn to ‘function without drugs for pain.’ She indicates they will (again) send him to a pain management specialist. Kris says he just saw a pain management specialist who suggested the medications be continued. The nurse indicates that that appointment was irrelevant – because she had not been the one who requested it.
The nurse emphasizes again that she will not give him any medications for pain and adds, “But you can grieve my decision because I know you like to file grievances and lawsuits.” The nurse then continues, stating that she will be removing Kris’s wheelchair. Reader, his walker was already removed from him on December 1, 2015 – why? Because he was being sent into a detention unit, similar to solitary, which has nothing to do with a person’s need to, well, actually walk around their room, if at all possible. The nurse then suggests he ‘learn to walk’ and insinuates that Kris did not have a spinal cord injury when, in actual fact, all the professionals involved in his surgery in 2013, as well as the one who wrote the letter one week earlier, recognize that he does. Kris then realizes that the nurse has had no intention of treating him by arranging this ‘appointment.’
Kris tells her that when he has a walker, he uses it, and he also needs a wheelchair – so he can go more than a few yards at a time. He mentions that he knows he will need that because he has a court appearance within about a month, a case he has managed to get some assistance with to file. The nurse insists that (despite the fact that Kris will continue to be in the custody of the state at all times), he cannot keep his wheelchair, and will have to figure out how to manage to get to court and appear there without it. As she tells him, to the following effect, ‘I’m just not going to allow you to believe and portray that you have an injury to people when it’s not true and hurts my colleagues.’ Kris begins to check out – I mean, he begins to lose control, is crying, is having flashbacks of being on the floor for three weeks at Yuma prison, and finally some other prison administrators arrive. Kris in the wheelchair has been slammed back against the wall, you see. He is worried about his neck as a result. Another medical nurse arrives, who presses on his neck, supposedly to prove that no new injury has just occurred. Kris is then seen by a psychology associate and returned to his cell.
What you have just read makes as much sense as Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky: “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves and the mome raths outgrabe. ‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch.’” Well, reader, should we go on? Into the heart of going crazy?
What would drive you crazy – or anger you to the point of being made crazy? Having an extremely serious injury, caused and exacerbated by those in control of you, people who not only decided intentionally to permit you to suffer with it, but also made it impossible for you to get well or get better – and who would also make it impossible for you to make your case, that you did not belong there or, at the least, required consistent medical care and pain management? And what if you thought you were in a new ‘home’ but they kept moving you around? What if, every time they moved you, you were not permitted to keep almost anything you had managed to acquire? This would include things such as paper, notes, books, research, your own writing? What if you were moved sometimes in the middle of the night, awoken and told to prepare to be taken to a new location, a new cell? What if you were told you could bring nothing with you? And everything you were working on in order to make your case was, as a result consistently taken from you? What if, when you asked for those items, you were told they were “lost”?
Let us descend to another level of the hell that Kris has managed, to date, to survive in the Arizona prison system – how, you say? By reviewing his transfer record of course. It’s in black and white. Granted, some of those transfers are related to his need for medical attention, but, as his mother puts it, “I know that many of the moves were because he had such torturing pain. Then they would move him to isolation and say it was psychiatric. At one point, he got psychiatric medications from a psychiatrist, but these were not for Kris – they gave him terrible nightmares.” Liv continues, “And in one case a health worker took Kris for a talk. He said to Kris, ‘But how do you feel’. Kris said the pain and spasms were so bad that it would be better to die. The worker said ‘You are not allowed to say anything like that. I will have to start a disciplinary case again you for saying that.’ And they did – they made a disciplinary case out of that, put Kris in isolation – of course in pain without medications. This is just an example of how they operate.”
So what does the Arizona prison system think is the reasonable care of a human being, a Norwegian who drove wrongly down the wrong street, tried to turn around and leave and instead, scared some kids and got his nose broken by a local bully? The following year, the local prosecutor got a special award for his efforts to enhance community safety and security.* (*See earlier blog posts in this series for more information.)
With his nose broken, Kris was jailed in Navajo County jail, beginning on the afternoon of September 24, 2011 in Winslow. His bail was set to $1 million dollars for that alleged crime so he was effectively trapped. Seven months later he was transferred to the Arizona state prison ‘reception’ facility at Alhambra. And here begins the dramatic, incredible and heart-breaking list of his transfers to date.
Transferred May 10, May 21, June 20, July 16, July 20, October 28, 2012
On May 10th, 2012, Kris was transferred to Lewis-Stiner prison, then on May 21 to Lewis-Bachman, on June 20 to Yuma-Cibola, on July 16 to Yuma, CMU, on the 20th back to Yuma Cibola, and on October 28, 2012 to Yuma CMU, the isolation unit.
This October 28th transfer to the Yuma CMU unit was because, as Liv puts it, he was, on October 25th suddenly attacked from the back by an unknown person who kicked his head causing him to fall down. He was in such pain, but the doctors would not prescribe pain medication. He was therefore sent to isolation without medications. Liv believes this attack was arranged for by the health care provider at the time, who was miffed at Kris’s repeated ‘Health Need Requests,’ written and submitted by Kris.
It was at this point that Kris had the seizure that resulted in his falling backwards in his cell on December 3, 2012. One deputy warden told Liv they could see how much pain he was in after this and told the medical administration – who did nothing.
Transferred December 19 & 26, 2012
Finally, on December 19th he was transferred to Tucson – Rincon unit, a medical unit where they claimed he was faking being ill. This month he was in ‘mental health watch,’ which meant Kris could not possess any writing instrument, and therefore could not write complaints and requests for care he wished to write.
Finally, on December 26th he was transferred to Tucson – Winchester. On December 30th 2012, Liv got her first phone call from Kris in which he told her he was very ill. While at Winchester, he was unable to walk and had little feeling in his left hand and side. As a result, some inmates there borrowed a wheelchair and helped take care of him themselves.
Transferred January 1, February 6, 2013
Finally, on January 1st, 2013 he was – literally - dragged to medical care. He was given a CT scan and sent immediately to the University of Arizona Medical Center for emergency surgery. After surgery he was guarded in the hospital during post-operative recovery. There he was threatened with violence by one guard monitoring him after Kris, while trying to re-adjust himself in bed, bumped the TV remote control the guard had left there, causing the channel to change while the guard watched TV.
On February 6, 2013, he was released from the hospital and transferred to Tucson prison’s health unit.
Transferred May 9, May 10, May 14, 2013
Then, in May, 2013, he was transferred 3 times, from Tucson prison’s Whetstone unit to the Rincon health unit and then to the Rincon psychiatric unit, a unit reserved for the seriously ill psychiatric prisoners, also not Kris and not a medical unit.
Transferred June 22, June 25, August 6, 2013
Kris’s next transfer occurred a bit over a month later, on June 22nd, 2013, to Rincon SNU Unit M. There he was, according to his mother, ‘disappeared’ for three days. Later, he told his mother how they came in the evening, stripped him naked and put him in an isolation cell. The walls and floor had excrement and blood all over them. Kris asked for a blanket and was given a rug covered with blood. The guard then said, “You are not worthy to have anything else.” This was done, he was led to believe, according to Liv, as a retaliation for his having spoken to the Norwegian reporter from VG, the Norwegian newspaper, for a short interview on June 14, 2013.
On June 25th, 2013, Kris was transferred back to the Tucson Rincon psychiatric unit, not an appropriate placement for him, where he spent most of the summer. He was then transferred to Tucson’s Manzanita Unit on August 6th, a medium-security prison designed to “help inmates prepare themselves to rejoin the wider community.” There, he was kept for the next 7 months, during which time he was to wear a large neck-body brace-girdle he had gotten after his surgery. He was also supposed to be seen by a neurologist and a pain specialist.
Transferred March 12, March 12, March 12, March 12 & March 13 2014
After an assisting attorney filed a motion to secure Kris’s re-examination, which was not happening, he was transferred on March 10, 2014 for a CT scan at the University of Arizona Medical Center. After that exam, Corizon health personnel stated they had decided that Kris was now completely well and did not need any medical care. They wished to send him to Yuma prison, where his neck was broken in the first place. During one single day, while Kris contemplated being returned to his former place of torturous ill treatment (the three weeks on the floor place with no medical assistance or examination – see Blog post 6), he was transferred to 4 different units in a period of 24 hours. That was March 12, 2014. First, he was sent to Tucson’s Whetstone prison, then to Tucson’s Complex Detention Unit, then back to Whetstone and then to the Rincon psychiatric unit (which was inappropriate for him). These transfers were effected in what is called in Norwegian a ‘glattcelle’ – a cage designed to protect persons from hurting themselves or others - such as those which, in February, 2014, were judged by the state of Norway to violate human rights. The day after the 4 transfers, March 13, 2014, Kris was sent to the Tucson Manzanita Detention Unit, a solitary style holding cell. Here he was kept for 5 days.
Transfers and attempted transfer March 18, March 27, March 28, March 29, March 30, March 31, 2014
On March 18, 2014, the Arizona prison system tried to transfer Kris to Yuma prison. Kris was chained onto a bus headed for Yuma. On the bus, Kris had a seizure, in part due to having been taken off of his medications. “Fortunately,” writes Liv, his mother, “the bus had rubber mats on the floor.” The bus returned Kris to Manzanita where an ambulance was called. Kris was then taken to the hospital in Tucson where he received necessary medications and was then sent back to the detention unit at Manzanita prison.
It was just a few days later on March 27th that they again came, early in the morning, to Kris and told him they were taking him to a neurology appointment. Kris was then taken directly to Yuma prison without any appointment.
As Liv says, “Yuma prison is like a death sentence for Kris. They have just a small hospital and no medical unit. But since Corizon reported him completely well and in no need of medications, he was being sent into a no-treatment situation.”
Of course, things could not go well for Kris here, who needed both medications and regular medical care. One day after arrival, he was transferred to Yuma’s Dakota C unit, the next day to Yuma’s Dakota CLOS unit, the next day, March 30th, 2014, to Yuma’s Dakota Isolation unit and the next day to Yuma’s La Paz unit. Here, he managed to live in one room for 17 days in a row.
Transferred April 17, May 2, October 18, November 3, December 25, December 26, 2014
On April 14, he was moved to Yuma’s Dakota unit again. Here, he managed to live for 14 days in a row before being moved again to Yuma’s La Paz unit. Here he managed to survive another 5 ½ months before being moved to Yuma’s Dakota unit again, where he stayed until November 3, 2014 when he was finally transferred away from Yuma, to Florence prison East unit.
But, sadly, it was at the Florence prison that the local health providers (Corizon health) began their determined efforts to remove him – again - from necessary pain medications and treatment, using persistent efforts to sabotage his health, both physically and mentally. From Florence’s East unit on November 3, he was transferred on December 25th to Florence’s Kasson M unit. Then, back again on December 26to the Florence East unit.
Transferred April 27, 2015
January, 2015 lead on to February, March and April. On April 27, 2015, Kris was transferred to the Eyman prison’s detention unit. This transfer was brought about by Corizon health staff after stopping Kris’s pain medications on April 21st. But why was he transferred? He had an appointment with a pastor of the Norwegian Sjømannskirke (Seamen’s Church, with worldwide locations, this pastor from the church in San Francisco), a meeting that was approved and set up for the morning of April 27, 2015. When the pastor arrived, Kris was not there – because he had been transferred away in the early morning hours – in other words, in the middle of the night. This visit from a representative of a Norwegian state organization, whose primary duty is to lend comfort and support to Norwegians around the world, was intentionally sabotaged by Arizona prison authorities.
Transferred May 20, May 25, June 4, June 26, June 29 & July 6, 2015
From Eyman prison, he was transferred about one month later to Lewis prison’s detention unit, and 5 days later to Lewis’s Stiner unit, then 11 days later to Lewis’s Buckley unit. This was on June 4, 2015. There, he was able to call Liv, and told her he was warned by some prisoners that Corizon staff had told lies about him – in order to make some prisoners take him and hurt him. Liv felt lucky that Kris had just recently been given the right to call her, which right had been denied for about 5 months. Liv reported what Kris said to an attorney who assisted him and contacted the prison, where Kris was sent into detention, which they felt was an effort to save his life.
On June 26, he was sent to Lewis’s Bachman unit and 3 days later back to Lewis prison’s Stiner unit C. Making it 4 transfers in about 4 weeks, he was transferred to Lewis prison’s Morey unit on July 6, 2015.
But let’s give the Arizona prison system a break here. They were after all attempting, on July 1st, 2015, to respond to a major prison riot uprising at the Kingman prison complex, where the prisoners were not fighting each other but against inhuman prison conditions. As a result of this uprising, a total of 2,404 inmates had to be moved quickly to some other prison, so there was a lot of shuffling.
Transferred August 25, 2015
Kris managed to live in one place at Lewis prison for 6 weeks before being moved back to Tucson’s Manzanita unit on August 25, 2015.
Since November 28, 2015, Kris has been refused calls to his mother. Since December 1, 2015, he has been held in Tucson’s Manzanita Detention unit, similar to an isolation unit. On that day, his walker was from taken from him by prison authorities.
And now, reader, we’ve come full circle. Would you like to remind yourself where we are? Go to the top of this blog and start reading it again. That’s where we are. Nowhere. Disappeared. Denied his medications and the equipment he requires for physical exercise and mobility.
So why go through this listing of all of his transfers? It’s all just facts, so what. There is nothing special about it. Yes, some transfers occurred in order to provide better care for Kris, but many seem pointless or cruel for someone with physical handicaps, handicaps brought on by and within the prison system itself. The reason, from my perspective, to dwell on these is, in part, to recall that, at almost all times, Kris was attempting to write and challenge both his sentence and the condition of his treatment, care and medication. At all times, these transfers removed all materials he had managed to assemble while attempting to make these efforts and did not return them nor let him keep them, regardless of how harmless those pieces of paper were, regardless of how harmless those law books were that his mother bought for him, regardless of how his notes were written by him and he had a right to keep them. At no time was this permitted to occur, and the system of sabotage of Kris’s efforts was effected easily enough – by walking around his human rights, by transferring him repeatedly and consistently. By sabotage.
According to a general dictionary, sabotage is any willful underhanded interference with a cause, an intentional undermining of a cause. It’s usually found in the law of war, but perhaps we are in a war here. After all, synonym verbs include: disable, vandalize and cripple, all things Kris has experienced under the detention and at the very direction of Arizona prison authorities – repeatedly and repeatedly.
Kris was, as a result of these conditions, unable to be effective in reviewing and contributing to his own appeal, already taken and denied despite serious problems in the district court’s record. We are also talking about transcripts from that court disappeared, the denial of access to transcripts, and files disappearing. We are possibly talking about serious corruption here. Anyone interested?
In my next installment, I hope to discuss more fully the Arizona prison system’s prisoner population, release possibilities and update you on the new hell he will surely face as he prepares, hopefully, to go to court on his own behalf to discuss his treatment and care, as well as his sentence. In the meantime, I am requesting that more attorneys in prominent criminal law practice and immigration practice in the federal district of Arizona and/or 9th Circuit Court of Appeals consider assisting Kris in his efforts. These should include efforts to achieve early release under Arizona’s own statute, “Release to deportation at one-half of sentence imposed,” ARS sec. 41-1601.14, designed to release inmates who are foreign born into the custody of their native country. This should bring U.S. federal authorities and the state of Norway into a discussion – and a capacity for action on Kris’s behalf - due to the coordination needs for such a release to be effected.
|Posted on January 22, 2016 at 4:35 AM|
John Kristoffer Larsgard – Part 6
I decided recently to discover, if I could, the general life status of John Kristoffer Larsgard, the Norwegian who was imprisoned in the state of Arizona after having been caught in Winslow after a car accident with his mother. If you are not familiar with this story, you will find details of that online at various news articles in Norwegian and English, and also at my five previous blog posts entitled with his name. These are posted at my website as well as at my Google blog, “Edvenson Consulting: News and Views.” Folks call him Kristoffer or Kris. I last wrote about Kris’s situation in the early Spring of 2012. And finally, attention is once again turning to him and his current predicament. None too soon, since he is now disabled – by and due to being in Arizona state prisons – and should probably have already been released to custodial care – paid for by the taxpayers of Arizona.
John’s prison time in Arizona began on Sept. 24, 2011. He was later sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison which, under normal procedures, would include ‘time served.’ He has thus now been in Arizona’s prison system’s custody for over half of that sentence – a period that many prisoners expect might result in release for good behavior – especially when prisons are overcrowded and understaffed, which Arizona’s are (see the State Auditor General’s recent report to the Arizona Legislature).
I was talking to his mother, Liv Larsgard, in Oslo. “Well, why hasn’t he been released yet?” I ask. “Because he’s had disciplinary cases against him, I imagine,” she replies. “Like what?” I say. “They said he was in a yard in his wheelchair and he wasn’t supposed to be there then, so they made a case of it. He said he had not been there and they could check their videotapes to see, but they just said ‘No.’ They don’t care.” “You’re kidding,” I say, “Well, do they add time for something like that?” “I’m not sure,” Liv answers, “but these disciplinary cases add up and then they put him into confinement. Like someone left their jacket in his room while visiting, so he took it back to their room in his wheelchair and tossed it in there, and they said that was forbidden so he also got in trouble for that.” Liv continues, “They said he could not make phone calls after November 28th last year because of these disciplinary behaviors.” As a result, Liv cannot talk to her son and he cannot keep her informed of his situation. I think she’s done, but she’s only getting started. “And they started returning my mail. You see, I was using pre-printed labels for his address and my address, and now no mail can go into the prison with any attachment so that’s not allowed.”
“Liv, why have they stopped your letters to him?” “They haven’t just stopped my letters to him – they keep them for some weeks un-opened and then they send them back. They say they cannot contain labels.” I say, “You mean they can’t include the ‘Documents only” label that the Norwegian post office wants to put on the envelopes – because the U.S. would like them to?” “Yes,” she bemoans. They think of anything to keep us from having communications.”
I’m feeling more and more like I’m the one who is drowning. So I try to do some basic arithmetic. “Okay, Liv, if he’s been in prison since Sept 24, 2011, he’s now been in prison over 4 years.” Liv pauses but it’s hard to say what she has to say. “I think they’re trying to kill him.” This sounds preposterous, so I have to ask how. “Well, he has been transferred 11 or 12 times just in 2015. He keeps trying to keep copies of the court documents he wants to use to file papers to try to have the case re-examined, but every time they move him, they take away all the documents he has in his possession and they never give them back. So he has to start all over again with his documents and his writing.” “Liv,” I say, “this can’t be permissible.” “That’s not all,” she continues, “The folks in Corizon Health told some other prisoners at his prison that he was an informant against them, and they hoped this would incite them to hurt him. And this happened more than once – at least twice. But some other prisoners heard the people involved talking about it, and told Kris, so he was able to go to the guards at the prison and tell them – so he could be put into the detention unit.” “What’s that?” I ask. “That’s solitary, or nearly so” says Liv. “Why?” “For his own protection,” she replies. So he’s now at Manzanita – Detention Unit.”
Liv says she’ll send me some documents that well-wishers, both attorneys and non-attorneys, have helped Kris put together just recently. He is currently bringing some cases in the courts, representing himself. He has had the kind assistance of a couple of attorneys, helping with the legal references and contexts. His mother, Liv, also keeps documents and notes, and receives a bit of help from friends and concerned persons in the Oslo area.
I am going to take one of those documents here in this blog episode, and simply take what are listed as the “allegations” and turn them into a story. I mean, why not? Let’s assume this is true, why don’t we? Why would someone make this stuff up? How could they imagine this? And before I begin, let’s recall that Kris was a relatively normal guy - but with a specialized neck injury and major neck surgery, on ordinary prescription medications for neck pain, and walking and talking when a Winslow native busted his nose, the cops arrested him, threw him into Navajo County Jail, and someone in the jail then managed to scuffle him to the floor and step on his neck, where he had previously had specialized surgery on his vertebrae in Iran.
After over five years in Arizona state prisons, Kris is now having to use a wheelchair and walker due to partial and probably permanent paralysis of part of his body.
Kris is preparing to argue that continuing to imprison him is unconstitutional and, as well, is completely disproportionate to his crime, which was, in effect, the crime of having unknowingly become a threat to the safety of persons who experienced no serious injury as a result.
So I’m turning to the contents of his story, as found in “Defendant’s Pro Per Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, No. CR2011-0767/CR2011-0780, Division III, (Evidentiary Hearing Requested)(Oral Argument Requested).
As background, Kris attended medical school in Australia, but began to have severe neck and hand pain. He had treatment for that in Norway and specialized surgery in Iran, where a surgeon specializing in such delicate surgeries was stationed at the time. His mother accompanied him on that surgery trip, having therefore gotten a visa page with her photo in her Norwegian passport, in which she, in deference to their culture, wore a head scarf for the visa photo. (This page was photocopied and kept as part of the Navajo County case documents as evidence of Kris’s and his mother’s link to terrorists.) So Winslow, with its population’s average age of 35, finally had their own terrorist.
Kris had also attended North Park University in Chicago, one of my alma maters, graduating Summa Cum Laude. He was living in California and studying to take the U.S. MCAT medical school entrance exam. His student visa renewal papers were in the process of being handled and, after he was jailed in Arizona, it became impossible for him to send the one fingerprint that application still required in order to go forward to processing. He did not therefore ‘let his student visa expire’ as some have suggested: it expired because his liberty was removed from him before he could finish the process, which was being handled in a timely manner.
Blame the navigation system: Well, I certainly could do that – on more than one occasion, it has oddly told me to do what I thought surely could not be correct – and was not correct. Kris was following a new rental car navigation system to try to get to an auto shop address in Winslow where his and his mother’s luggage were being held for them to pick up so they could continue their trip to Chicago – when he ended up entering an area in which a special community celebration was occurring. When he backed up to turn around, he did not see persons put into danger. Of course, he would not wish to endanger anyone when the car hit the curb. It was at the point when the father of some children on the sidewalk got enraged and ran after Kris’s and his mother’s car that thing began to disintegrate.
But let me leave the events of that fateful day behind us for a minute and talk more about what has happened since Kris entered incarceration. I won’t even get that far: I’ll have to write more soon.
Since Kris was sentenced he has brought a federal case claiming the state’s deliberate indifference to his medical needs while he has been in custody. The District Court denied summary judgment, meaning that they did not permit the case to be dismissed out-of-hand. Specifically, Kris has suffered such serious injuries while in the custody of the Arizona state prison system that he had to undergo emergency neurological surgery at the University of Arizona Medical Center. This occurred after he was (1) left on the floor of his cell for nearly one month with life threatening injuries (he could not sit or stand up): (2) he had what they knew was a history of seizures, and (3) he was eventually taken to a hospital in Tucson where the surgery was performed.
Problems were apparent even at Navajo County Jail when Kris was unable to receive the prescription medicines he was used to having. Staff were told and nothing was done about it. Without these and with the addition of intentional inmate injuries to Kris, he was experiencing severe pain most of the time. Kris described this pain as so extreme that death would have been more humane.
The medication he has received has varied greatly, and the most effective medicines have often not been prescribed nor provided consistently - a primary concern being that some of the medicines which work best for his situation are classified as narcotics, medicines freely prescribed in Norway, but for some reason considered a ‘security concern’ in Arizona. While Kris could usually get Ibuprofen for his pain, he also received no physical therapy after his degrading condition persisted. He was able to live a relatively normal life out of prison, with mild pain and medication. He told the prison staff about what he needed, and they stated that it was a controlled substance and was generally unavailable no matter what the inmate’s medical history. They did continue another medication that was designed to prevent seizures and muscle spasms. Still, his pain persisted.
When he was first sent into the state prison system, he was sent to the antique, dirty and dangerous Alhambra “Reception Facility.” From there, he was sent to Lewis prison in May, 2012. Here he requested a visit with a pain specialist for pain treatment for cervical spinal pain but was given only one of the two medicines he needed to successfully live with the pain. As a result, he had a seizure in his cell and awoke in pain on his cell room floor.
He was then seen by a doctor at Lewis prison who informed him that “chronic severe pain” was not “a chronic condition recognized” by the Arizona Department of Corrections. That’s news to me, reader. One learns something new every day. They did, however, state that seizures could be treated. The doctor prescribed the anti-seizure drug while Kris, familiar with it, tried to discuss with him the fact that this drug had significant adverse side effects. The doctor refused to prescribe medicine for Kris’s severe and chronic pain and, instead, suggested he submit another application for a health review and ‘restart the process.’ Because Kris could not get the medication he was used to having for pain, he began to suffer incontrollable muscle spasms in his neck and upper back.
In June, 2012 Kris was transferred to Yuma prison, but his medications and medical files were not sent there also. As a result, Kris was without his pain medication and suffering extreme pain at Yuma. He pleaded with Yuma prison staff to receive medical attention, but was advised that since he had been transferred to a new facility, he would be ‘at the end of the line’ of inmates to be seen. He was also told to expect considerable delay since there was only one medical doctor for Yuma, which houses about 5,000 inmates at any one time.
Kris became desperate and sent numerous letters of appeal to correction facility health service administrators and others whose concerns included inmate health services, and despite getting some answers, none resulted in any immediate help. Eventually, Kris got medicine that reduced the pain to moderate to severe. Then, in July, 2012 he was told his medical provider would be switched to a privately owned and operated company. Kris’s health condition began deterioration when, in late July, one person said she would attempt to get him the pain medication he needed as well as the seizure medicine he had used previously. While he did get some medications, in August he was told that his pain issues were now resolved when, in fact, his pain was still occasionally severe and was resulting in progressive deterioration of his physical condition. As early as 2012, he was having difficulty writing as a result of the effect of this pain, which he called “akin to torture.”
While Kris was at Yuma and while his condition worsened, his mother managed to put together the medical history files that illustrated Kris’s medical condition and history and deliver them to the doctor at Yuma. This doctor then saw Kris in September, 2012 and decided that Kris was not in any significant pain and “had to learn to live with some pain.” The doctor stated that the previous doctor opinions and prior treatment of Kris had no meaning within the Arizona Department of Corrections and that they would not be requesting stronger pain medication for him. In another visit to this doctor, the doctor emphasized that prison was supposed to be punishment and not comfortable.
As a result, in December, 2012, Kris had another serious seizure and was left in a state of partial paralysis. Kris woke up on the floor of his cell and could not move the left side of his body. Despite this status, Kris was left on the floor of his cell for the next three weeks. He was laid on a mat and given an empty shampoo bottle to urinate into. He managed to use the toilet about once each day, which was one foot away and took him 30 minutes to maneuver himself onto. He was also refused medical care treatment at Yuma because he had filed papers complaining of the lapses in his medical care and treatment. Staff at Yuma began to call him a “faker” and a “phony,” suggesting he was having “psychiatric issues” and no tangible physical injuries. He was eventually transferred to Tucson prison for psychiatric evaluation.
Once at Tucson prison, Kris was taken to the emergency department of University Physicians Hospital in Tucson where the staff determined that he had sustained serious neck and spinal cord injuries, and he was ordered into immediate spinal immobilization. Kris’s blood pressure at this point was so low that staff initiated a trauma procedure and he was transferred to the University of Arizona Trauma Center for immediate surgery. He remained hospitalized until February of 2013.
When he was discharged from the hospital, he was taken to the state’s Tucson prison medical unit. He was required, by his health providers at the hospital, to wear a body brace and pads, and was supposed to receive magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) to monitor his progress. But that didn’t happen.
At about the same time, the state of Arizona terminated the contract they had with Wexford, the private contracted health care provider, and Wexford was replaced with another for-profit correctional medical and health service provider, Corizon. Which brings us to the folks who are more interested in planting rumors that he’s an informant when he is not – so that someone in his prison can kill him, an accident of course that could not be prevented – than they are in actually providing health services to prisoners.
What Kris is trying to do, instead, is argue his case for adequate medical care and treatment. He has filed more than 30 applications for health services to date, pleading for adequate medical attention. His pleas are joined by those of former Wexford staff whose professional opinions are ignored by the folks at Corizon. As a result, as he says himself, he sometimes wishes he would go to sleep and never wake up.
But Kris is also a fighter. Oh, you say? He’s not allowed to be a fighter. Well, when the fight is one for justice, it is hard not to be moved, in my opinion. Surely, as Kris wants to argue, the seriousness of his health issues were part of the factual evidence that was never given sufficient weight in his first trial. Had it been, do you think that the jury would have convicted him of attempting to endanger life and limb using a murderous tool? (The car that he was driving while trying to get away from people running after him, get his luggage and leave town?). As Kris can, I believe, reliably argue, (since I have read the Plaintiff state’s closing argument transcript), Kris’s pre-existing physical condition at the time of the incident as well as his medical history were clearly at issue already when the charges were filed, should have been the subject of discovery and should have resulted in facts produced at trial with even the least amount of professional diligence an attorney could muster: it must therefore have been intentionally ignored.
This has to have been the case since the visa page from Liv Larsgard’s Norwegian passport showing her wearing a scarf over her hair was not ignored – and the reason, as she explained, was that she was in Iran with her son for specialized spinal neck surgery, the cause of their earlier trip to Iran.
Would Kris’s neck difficulties have caused him to have an accident? No, his mother was driving when they had the accident that landed them in Winslow. But would it cause him to have difficulty making a three-point turn in a new rental car in a town on a street where he had never been? Of course it would. Would that ‘go toward intent’ (causing a reasonable doubt in Kris’s intent to intentionally harm others)? Of course it would. And would having your nose broken by someone running up alongside your car and punching you in the face through your open driver’s side window cause you to have difficulty deciding what was best to do next? And drive sporadically? All of which was NOT ignored but repeatedly and repeatedly drilled into the jury’s minds.
I’m done here. I’m back talking to Liv in Oslo. “So, what happened next?” Liv says, “He fell backward on December 3, 2012 – at Yuma prison - and broke his neck due to falling back. They left him in his cell to die. He was left for nearly a month. Now he is using a wheelchair and a walker.”
“And when did you see him last?” Liv replies, ”That was in 2013. It was all set up: the permissions were obtained and I had come all the way – from Norway. Everything was arranged beforehand – everything. Then, when I got there, they told me I could not get on the bus: that I could not see him, they had changed their mind. This was at Tucson prison.” So what happened? She continues, ”They said a CO3 had decided it.” (Corrections Officer 3) “So I decided to ask someone else – so I started to walk toward two guards with dogs. They kept telling me to stop, or they’d let the dogs loose, and I hollered back that I was not going to stop and I didn’t care what they did to me, because I was supposed to see my son and I had come from Norway and it was all arranged. Then, they got two ladies who were very nice and they re-considered and said I might see Kris. Then they checked me for metal and said I had to be more covered up than my V-neck shirt, so I went back to my car and put on more clothes, and then they let me in.
“Doesn’t anyone else see him or speak out?” “Well,” says Liv, “The Norwegian consulate – they want to be informed but they don’t want to help. They say, ‘He’s in prison? Then it’s up to the prison.’ But I think it is a violation of his human rights. They could do something, couldn’t they?”
I agree that they could. I have had International Human Rights law and I have sufficient knowledge of the facts to suggest that they could. As a matter of the practicality of international human rights law (i.e. why have it if it won’t work?), as well as simply an effort to bring it into effect, it is the obligation of general governmental institutions – at all levels and in all respects - to involve themselves – precisely because it cannot simply be the case that procedurally ordinary avenues could or would result in addressing these types of wrongs: the wrongdoers are often the very bureaucratic culprits, and are not necessarily in a position, individually or as a group, to change their ‘sick culture’ into one that can secure the very specific international human rights the nation itself pledged to uphold in its treaty signature.
But what about the rest of 2013? All of 2014? All of 2015? And now it is 2016. I think I’m missing some of the story and we’ve already been talking for an hour. Liv continues chatting, time out of context, “He was kept in a cellar for 3 weeks, in solitary, from a March into June.” I then learn that a pastor from the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in San Francisco went to see him during this time. He was chilled, apparently, in more ways than one. Liv says, “He’s not allowed to talk about it - by the Norwegian authorities. . . . because it’s torture: to keep one in pain in the dark. His eyes, you know . . . He was in chains – his hands, his feet.”
She then pauses, “But it was nice they let him see Kris.”
|Posted on May 29, 2015 at 1:05 AM|
Police behavior on the lovely Gulf Coast: May, 2015
While Americans were cursing the grand jury’s announcement not to prosecute police officers from Ferguson, Missouri after Michael Brown’s police-caused death – and then exploding in Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s police-caused death, I was, I thought, basking in the sunshine of the Gulf coast. I was also working, but in any case, I felt removed from the violence, despite the strong notion that the neighborhood I was in was distinctly white because of the many condominium projects in the area, whose private rules control entry to ownership.
I dutifully picked up my neighbor’s paper every morning since they were out of town, enjoying the local “Gulf” news, police blotter hilarities, and the Florida governor’s shell game excuses for not permitting the state to expand Medicaid.
So it was a soft surprise to read that police in Sarasota County to the south had managed to land someone they were picking up in the hospital where he quite promptly died. Let’s not say he was black, but he wasn’t white either. Off the radar, they probably thought. Let’s say he appeared disturbed when stopped in a car by police, along with another relative deadbeat. Drugs were found. Good reason to die today? He was handcuffed and put into the police cruiser. End of story? He was really upset and emotionally distraught – word was that he was afraid of losing custody of his children – or visitation, something like this. They lived in the area. He was a local - with a history of minor problems on his chart. Good reason to die? He claimed he couldn’t breathe and felt sick, police say, so they called for medical support. When he looked like he felt more stable, they cancelled the call. Is that a police ‘call’ to make? He managed somehow to climb out the window of the police car when it was stopped somewhere en route, while also being handcuffed, and police ‘apprehended him’ again taking him into custody within a half minute or so. Reason to then taser him three times? What is a taser doing out when he is already apprehended? Time to teach him not to climb out the window of the police car when he actually wants to get away? Even if he is mentally challenged, a good reason he should die? Over a traffic stop with drugs in the car? Reason to taser someone? He was also beaten on the head with the officer’s large flashlight. Reason to be beaten on the head with a virtual club? While in custody with hands bound? Reason to die today? Or tomorrow, as he generously lived longer than that day, I think. And his kids are where? How old? Reason to leave them fatherless? When he loved them? Reason a taser is to be used? When? Only when? The police flashlight? When? Only when you need to see something you can’t see – right? And the paper is acting like this is all just ho-hum news. The next day the same – more details, more ho hum news? Then a glimmer of the word, investigation – by whom? By when? A review of police procedures not mentioned. But, as the paper notes, “Just four minutes after he was stopped by Sarasota Police, John Paul Kaafi was Tasered three times and beaten with a flashlight.”
A couple days pass, and news arrives on the neighbor’s doorstep that a young man has died of police gunshots near a pier in St. Petersburg, just a hop skip jump north. He was apparently distressed, was on medication that he felt was not addressing his needs, was brandishing a gun. He managed to shoot a man in the arm, then shoot a police officer in the leg. When challenged by police to drop the gun, he acted like well, hey, shouldn’t he use it? Weren’t they scared? He reportedly said, “Go ahead and kill me.” So they shot him: dead. Reason to die? Fear of police and highly reactionary mental instability? When asked, a friend tellingly told radio reporters, to the effect, ‘I really hope he will not be remembered as someone who wanted to hurt police: that wasn’t who he was at all. He was just confused and afraid.’ Fear and confusion apparently is a real good reason in police circles for police to kill an unstable and beautiful young man. Story over – end of story – end of history.
What is the reason to kill an unstable and unattractive man whose car is not perfect and has drugs in the car? What is the reason?
What is the reason to kill an unstable and attractive young man who was brandishing a gun and was said to say, “Go ahead and kill me” before police shot him? Are police allowed to kill a young man who is obviously deranged and distressed if he gives them permission to do so, supposedly? Isn’t there a way to take down a person in this circumstance without killing them? Have we forgotten how to disable danger? Yes apparently. Have we forgotten how to prioritize the preservation of human life? Yes, absolutely.
Now the demilitarization of the police in the US is already called for – decades after it should have begun. What is also needed is a complete overhaul of how police intercept public persons at all levels of incident. What must happen is that life must be respected and preserved, despite a man – or woman’s – criminal behavior, stupidity, meanness, filmic brandishing, or the usual subterfuges. And as for those who are mentally unstable, ill and fear police, they are certainly more sane these days than those that club them, taser them and shoot them.
The level of disgust these stories generate should be multiplied a thousand-fold if even one life would be saved. A flashlight is for seeing things. A Taser is for stopping ongoing criminal misconduct that cannot be otherwise controlled, not punishing those caught in today’s terrible stranglehold of a police ‘pull-over’ and detention. A man’s call for medical assistant should be respected. And a young man with a gun is to be disarmed - not killed, then helped to find stability in his health and life.
-June Edvenson is an American attorney who lives and works in Norway, where police do not generally carry guns but are considering distribution of Tasers. She writes for publication, consults on international legal issues and teaches part-time.
|Posted on September 7, 2014 at 10:50 AM|
Many real experts and political ploy-boys have been weighing in on suggested plans for a Winter Olympics in Norway. It's been going on for over a year already and the suggested date of execution was to be 2022. Now, instead of experts being ignored, we are seeing movement at the top. Norway's main newspaper is taking on the hot potato. Here are some comments on my part, and a translation of the editorial, published Sept. 6, 2014. First my remarks.
The Olympics are run by a non-transparent pomp-and-puff assemblage of royalty, sheiks, barons and famous, a Swiss corporation without banking transparency whose top activity is to assemble media dollars and pass them on to sports organizations it independently selects for encouragement. Within its global monopoly, it alone decides how much money is enough money to run an Olympics, and refuses to contribute more than a very small portion to the actual costs of producing the games. It uses the argument that a host country will, as a result of bearing most of the costs of creating the facilities and running the games, experience a surplus of value that is readily put to uses which make the initial investments worth it . . . when, in fact, Olympics facilities are not appropriate or continually useful for most countries who have hosted them, and cause their losses in infrastructure to simply create un-sustainable and worldwide facility junk. The IOC is also not involved in de-structuring a games venue, nor in re-applying previous game venues in order to save future country host funds. It’s a continuous, ever-spiraling-upward display of mythic show that is not appropriate for a shrinking world in which even host countries struggle to balance their budgets for the health, welfare and the education of their citizenry. It utilizes, as now constituted, an unsustainable business model, and scorns suggestions that it should be re-organized. Better yet, it needs to be placed into global non-profit administration, and it shields itself from change in part through posturing poorly-detailed ‘finessing’ financial reports. What I’d like to see is more of an audit report, not a financial report – a management audit report.
But then that’s about my preferences. Don’t get me wrong. I have enjoyed my share of televised Olympic game moments of enjoyment. But that doesn’t mean that the business of putting on an Olympics doesn’t deserve a major overhaul – and now! Norway’s primary newspaper has now weighed in on the possibility that Norway would host the 2022 Winter games at Oslo. Since this paper dropped their English translation/version services, I’ve made a fair translation of it, below. Here’s to those interested in reading what the Aftenposten editorial has to say, which is succinct and, as well, a fair and proud display of what Norway’s egalitarian business culture values look like in practice. Enjoy!
Aftenposten newspaper, Friday, September 5, 2014, Oslo, Norway
“No to the Oslo OL.
THESE DAYS, the Norwegian government is handling Oslo's application for a governmental 'State's guarantee' for hosting the Winter Olympics in 2022. The subsequent parliamentary proceedings will conclude whether Oslo shall next year submit a final application to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
We believe that Parliament should say no. The Olympics has become an event with a desperate need for fundamental changes and renewal. The best signal Norway can give about this is to join the long list of countries that have withdrawn their applications. RIGHT BEFORE the referendum in Oslo a year ago, Aftenposten expressed support for an Oslo Olympics. However, our 'Yes' was conditional. We have made it clear that the Olympics cannot be arranged at any price.
The IOC that turned up during the Sochi Olympics strengthened our skepticism concerning an organization that still clings to special rules and privileges.
We have seen that the IOC expects that the sponsoring country is giving the organization special treatment regarding taxes and fees. Or, as it says in the requirement specifications to applicant cities: "It is important to minimize tax exposures." What may be the upshot of this remains unclear, but this attitude witnesses, alone, global remoteness and pathetic arrogance which can cost Norway dearly.
Culture Minister, Torhild Widwey (Right party) tried to get exemptions from parts of the IOC rules when the provisional application was submitted in March, precisely to secure more national control over the event. That move caused the IOC to set its foot down very decidedly.
The Government therefore accepted the Olympic Charter without modifications. That doesn't mean that Norway is without influence in a further process concerning framing conditions and the events program, for it seems like, also, the IOC can see the need for something more modest. However, the regulatory framework provides an unacceptable level of uncertainty regarding cost responsibility for an event which, according to the most cautious estimates, will cost approximately 25 billion Norwegian crowns.
Under intense pressure from the negative public polls and hesitant national politicians, the Oslo 2022 planning group proposed this past week cuts that will save the public about 4.3 billion Norwegian crowns.
The proposal is understandable, but it is getting an undeniable and desperate tone when an arranger is pointing to the cultural opportunities that they themselves are rejecting. More importantly, several of the cuts undermine some of the arguments for the Olympics, namely the re-use of new sports facilities and apartments. Neither will an Olympics consistent with the proposed savings be a desirable option.
The OL is a national effort. The state pays almost the entire bill. Therefore we have throughout this entire process been concerned with the fact that the games must have broad support from the entire country. Today, one year after the referendum in Oslo, we must note that this is not the case. On the contrary, polls show that resistance has increased. Opposition in northern Norway is formidable and in no part of the country is there a 'yes' majority.
We think this attitude is based on healthy skepticism. The re-use' argument is not strong enough to justify the costs, and the Olympics will not in any way give Oslo the sports facilities the city has most need for.
Norway's remaining competitors are China and Kazakhstan, countries we generally find no reason to compare ourselves with, and regimes that do not tend to ask their populations about what they would like to spend money on. This also gives ominous signals that the Olympics have become a 'prestige project' and a money sink-hole Norway should not support.”
|Posted on July 22, 2014 at 9:40 AM|
Get out. Get the hell out:
Musings on the Summer News
Nice to be globalized, isn’t it? Didn’t we look forward to this for like, well, perhaps the last 10 or 20 years? After all, we are most of what we know exists in the universe that is alive. (By ‘we,’ I mean everything on the Earth that can think and that is alive including whales.) Most of what we know is happening on this planet. But, what? Have to live together in the same space? Forget it. We know we have to, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. And we don’t do that very well all the time because, well, our moods vary.
Plus, why not kill whales when we know we can, like Norway does, despite the global ban? Isn’t that part of the ongoing discussion related to the ‘civilization of the species?’ By that, I here mean just homo sapiens – which, by the way, means, rather pathetically, ‘wise man.’ Don’t talk to us about killing whales, Norway says: talk to us about global climate change.
Back to the summer news. To wit, “Berlin expels American spy chief as strains grow,” headlines the International New York Times on July 11th. Apparently, the CIA’s “station chief, who has not been identified” “has been asked to leave Germany.” Well, if he hasn’t been identified, couldn’t he just disappear instead? So they asked another CIA officer, who said “It’s one thing to kick lower-level officers out; it’s another thing to kick the chief of station out,” which, frankly, seems like a no-brainer to me, because, well, they are different.
Then there’s the latest row over the Obama administration’s choice for Norway’s next Ambassador to Norway from the United States, a Mr. George J. Tsunis. I try not to weigh in on such arguments – primarily because I worked in the Illinois state’s bureaucracy for enough years to know that no boss runs the show; the people who work there as civil servants do. Occasionally, a political appointee can claim to have improved matters more than they detracted from the generally tortoise pace of things of State, although that’s also rather rare.
But the fuss continues: The opinion page headline reads: “Fabian Stang har rett til å fortelle presidenten hva han mener,” meaning that Fabian Stang, the Mayor of Oslo, has the right to tell the President what he thinks, with the tag line, “Skiv til Obama!” or Write to Obama! According to the Aftenposten newspaper of July 20, quite a few people have gotten on the ‘No to Tsunis for Ambassador to Norway’ bandwagon. They claim he shouldn’t even get in, let alone be told to ‘Get out.’ They want him gone before he arrives. He’s unqualified and the whole appointment smacks of political pork. I do something for you (like give Obama lots of money for his campaign), and you do something for me (like send me to Norway as Ambassador from the U.S.). I don’t know; I think the pork scales don’t really ‘add up’ on this one. If I had something to say to Mr. Tsunis, it would be, “Listen, you don’t really want to move here, you know? You think you know how it would be to live in Norway, but frankly, it’s not all a bowl of cherries – there are lots of problems – most of which you can’t influence no matter who you are, and if you try to argue any sense into the government, you’d surely fail since they are not interested in listening to anyone who is not, well, them.
But no, in this latest article, it is noted that the Mayor of Oslo, Fabian Stang (who I really really like, besides the fact that his name is Fabian and I still have my Fabian tear pillow which I actually cried real crocodile tears into when I was a teenager), would like to send President Obama a letter regarding Mr. Tsunis’s appointment – to express several points of opinion on this. The main one is, the Aftenposten confides, that never has the U.S. planned to send an Ambassador who is so thoroughly unqualified for the position, and Oslo is intrinsically engaged at all levels because that’s where he would live and where the Embassy is. Tsunis may be unqualified but I could have told him that. But should a Mayor of a city send a letter to the U.S. President? Well, if I can, Fabian, you can too. We have more democracy in the U.S. than you do here in Norway, anyway. Go for it.
Why, Fabian, I once sent a letter to Norway’s Secretary of State, Kjell Magne Bondevik. He was to host a conference sponsored by Norway against terrorism in New York City associated with the United Nations. I felt I could assist in that work. I also needed a job and was seeking appropriate connections desperately. He did not even write back. No one did. But once you move to Norway, you find out that no one ever does. It’s like we well-qualified foreigners are invisible, which is how Norwegians like us best.
While we’re on the subject of banishing people, let’s include the needy and unemployed, who are banished from Svalbard, the island Norway calls its own, located within the Arctic Circle. According to the New York Times of July 11, a remarkably good issue, “Arctic archipelago banishes the needy.” Svalbard’s Governor, Odd Olsen Ingero, has a police staff of 6, one detention cell, no one has been locked up since last summer, and that was only for two days. Why, you ask? Because you aren’t allowed to be unemployed, for one thing. As the article notes, Ayn Rand would love this place. If you aren’t employed, you are deported. “If you don’t have a job,” says Ingero,” you can’t live here.” Great. I love it.
Tell this (again) to the Norwegian government, whose most recent manifestation as a Høyre–FrP mix is less like a conservative government, and more like a quiz on Conservative Politics 101. Summer’s agenda was to legalize Segways, so parliamentarians had a chance to try them around town. Let’s see – shall we pass a law against begging? Sure. Send them back to Romania, too. Shall we deport the homeless? Yes, let’s – just don’t use more money on doing it. Some time ago, the Norwegian Supreme Court said no: one cannot let families micro-manage their immigration acceptance based purely on disadvantaging their own children in order to create their ultimate case for approval (a good decision). No, scream all the bleeding heart Save-The-Children brigades across the land, full of pity for kids that managed to learn a language they should never have been given a chance to learn in the first place, kids who are the pawns in their own parents’ games. And because the budget for getting rid of people is so high, cut the budget – so what if the applicants have to live in prison-style living quarters until we tell them they can’t stay . . . in 2 or 3 years. Because we’re backlogged!
The ‘cucumber news’ of summer streams on. Yes, they call it that here: “agurk nytt,” which news is doubly funny when it has to do with cucumbers, which Norwegians love and eat in great quantities, especially in summer.
Still, the prize for best ‘Get Out’ stories of summer come from Russia and Israel. As for Russia, they just want what they can’t have – without taking it, so everyone who doesn’t agree in the Ukraine should just get out. Which some are doing. As for Israel, the situation is a little different. From the perspective of most Norwegians, who have plenty of Palestinian refugees among their numbers, these are the folks who got permission to live on specific tracts of land, and then began wholescale takeovers of all the land around that they could manage to grab, fight for, wall off, and defend by tooth and bloody nail. Note I am not speaking for myself. Not only do they want the Palestinians to be gone – off the Palestinians’ own land, but to get out of sight. Out of sight is, after all, out of mind – when it’s on the other side of an apartheid Wall, completed in 2005 which runs for 422 miles and costs Israel $260 million dollars annually to maintain – and which helps to separate Israel from its nearest neighbors, with whom it should make peace and trade for the good of all. Therefore, as Israel’s Prime Minister told CNN yesterday, he is saddened when he hears of innocent civilian Palestinians being killed. After all, he would not be able to see it so he has to just hear about it. And is he really? I don’t know. I’ve been watching Israeli troops murder Palestinians since I could watch TV. I won’t say how many years that is, but now that you know I’ve got a Fabian pillow, the cat’s out of the bag. What I can’t understand is where the people who keep killing each other and getting killed come from. Wouldn’t they eventually run out of people in this area? They certainly won’t run of out of guns and weapons. Now that’s important. Call the arms traders today. They don’t have to get out.
Nice to be globalized, isn’t it? Privacy used to be a protected right, and now it’s just a checked box and an unwanted toolbar. Ask Ask.
Kids used to hang out at Utøya solving the world’s pressing problems, and today it’s a memorial to a stupid killing spree that happened three years ago, today. At least this year they’re making plans to get back to business next summer out there, not a moment too soon, in my opinion.
Ambassadors used to intervene for the good of their citizens in their countries of assignment, and now it’s either a spying mission or a pork job.
So go one’s thoughts as the fjord glimmers in the afternoon sun during one of Norway’s warmest and most beautiful summers on record.
I guess the upside is: Transparency is also improved. More people at all levels and in all places are going to be held more accountable. Maybe whale killing in Norway and by Norway will also someday stop. There’s always hope in the air that we will eventually discover ways to create sustainable biodiversity and save the planet’s species before it’s too late.
So look up. We can at least hope you won’t see a drone. Me, I’ll be collecting cherries for the jam that will help us survive the dark winter. Meanwhile, get out into the fjord and jump in today – it’s cold and feels wonderful.
“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
― Henry James
|Posted on March 21, 2014 at 5:50 AM|
E-filing your FBAR
Well, it's easy - you just go online and fill in the form and file it.
I decided it was time to get graphically clear about this 'online filing' of the FBAR form - after hearing from a client today that he was having great luck with it, but it was rather odd that it did not ask for the bank names or account numbers. Well, who knows where he was, but he was not doing the work of e-filing his FBAR form.
Since I went through this process just the other day, myself, I can tell you that it is also not as lovingly transparent as the standard even-claiming-to-be-averagely smart adult can manage.
I clicked and clicked before realizing it was trying to prevent me from opening the form online. And the point of that would be? That it does not want you to open up the form online!
First, you download it, then you fill it out, then you submit it - and e-sign it also.
Therefore, I am adding Part 2 of this blog post, which goes like this:
As to your FBAR of course it will have to list the bank names and account numbers. Also the names of any joint account holders. Also lots of addresses - real street addresses ideally. And even the names of persons whose accounts you have access to - all of them that you have access to. All the foreign bank accounts, securities accounts, this type of thing.
Have you used the correct link? This is currently the link: http://bsaefiling.fincen.treas.gov/NoRegFBARFiler.html
Now you are going to download the form to your computer.
You SHOULD download the form to your PC.
Then close your browser and internet connection.
Then go find the form you just downloaded onto your PC.
(This is a test: is the form on your PC where you told it to store it - or in what is now often called the "Downloads" folder?) By the way, the form wants to call itself NFFBAR. Go look for it on your computer. Offlne, that is.
Then open it and fill it out (without going online) and give it your own name and the year, for example, and put it in a folder you’ll recall. (Don't keep it named NFFBAR!)
Then you go back online and upload it by clicking through at the 'file FBAR box' (same link as above) and follow the instructions - and that includes 'signing it' by having to go back and forth to 1-2 screens.
Then you sign it online with a click on a box and screen.
Then you see a confirmation you should print.
You have to give a good e-mail address so the IRS can send you a confirmation of the filing by e-post. That e-mail arrives soon enough, and will include a tracking number of some sort (government style, really long) which you should keep in case they want to look at it later and ask you for that number.
Okay? Hope that helps,
|Posted on January 26, 2014 at 12:30 PM|
E-file your FBAR Forms
Too many topics, too little time. Sorry for the long blog-silence.
I may not be writing here as much, but I am 'sharing' - at my Facebook company page. If you’re interested, you’ll find some of my shared news clippings on Facebook at “EdvensonConsulting.” Welcome to my Facebook page! And please, if you visit, ‘Like’ me! Follow me! You’ll enjoy it! And if you don’t, you can always unlike me . . . or unfollow me . . . or however that works.
Today’s topic is: the new e-filed FBAR form. This is the Foreign Bank Accounts Report form (FBAR for short). And it is now January, 2014.
Yes, you too can manage to file this form. Just say it: “I can do this!” Yes, you, American abroad who has not told the U.S. government about your foreign bank accounts, which basically make it possible for you to live the modern life in whatever country you live in. But also yes, you, American surfer dude who lives in Miami and keeps what he thinks are his own secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, or Antigua or another of the world’s thankfully but slowly disappearing tax havens, where he sends his profits from whatever he does for money, and therefore tries to hide it from U.S. taxation, which frankly makes all Americans the poorer. And this is not to mention all the other types of Americans who think they’re getting away with something, which makes us all the poorer.
The IRS and U.S. Department of Treasury have, as you may know, gone from permitting FBAR filings on paper to ONLY permitting FBAR filings ONLINE. This is a challenge for the online-challenged. First, then, you should plan to map out all your entries on paper – why not? The details needed are your accounts, the highest amounts in them during any particular year, and the currency type, bank name, address, etc.
This form is no longer called the TDF 90-22.1 but is called the FinCEN Form 114. This stands for: Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Form 114. . . . even though the form itself is still entitled, “Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts.” Therefore, do NOT be scared off by this: it is obviously a reflection of the fact that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network would like to take credit for Form 114, and NOT that you are in some kind of trouble!
Just do the form!
At this page, they tell you to first (1) fill out the form, and then second (2) file the form online.
When you click through to see the form, you will see the usual-looking FBAR form.
Save this form to your computer. Then you can open it up and fill it out by typing onto it. Save your typed-on draft(s) with new names - to your computer in a folder – (don’t keep typing onto the form online without saving it) so you always save your work - until you are finished listing your accounts. Then save your final ‘hard file’ version on your PC.
Then you can go back online, to this address: https://bsaefiling1.fincen.treas.gov/NoRegFilerUpload" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">https://bsaefiling1.fincen.treas.gov/NoRegFilerUpload , and file the FBAR Form.
Generally, all the same requirements apply to the online form as to the offline form of the past. Any American with values equivalent to $10,000 in any combination of bank and financial accounts in any given year – during the current or prior 6 years, must file, going back (for each applicable year) 6 prior years. The forms are due to be filed by June 30th of the year after the year of the report, so 2013 FBAR reports are due to be filed by June 30, 2014.
And here, if you want your hand held, go see some videos:
Or go watch Rod Lundquist’s IRS Powerpoint presentation that reviews some of the context for the report: http://www.irsvideos.gov/ReportingForeignFinancialAccountsOnTheFBAR/player/frame-wm.htm
If you want further assistance, you can contact the IRS directly at their FBAR help line, which, if the information online is still correct is at the phone number: (800)800-2877. I have heard good reports from clients who spoke to agency staff by phone.
As I always tell my clients, try to ‘enjoy’ doing the FBAR reports – think of it as a secretarial job, which is what it is. Also, it’s not just part of enjoying being in compliance with the law, but part of contributing to the infrastructure and services that a civil society can provide.
If you need assistance with your out-of-country U.S. IRS individual personal income tax return (also known as 'the 1040'), feel free to call or write me – that’s one of my consultancy’s services.
|Posted on June 30, 2013 at 8:30 AM|
It was time to come up with a topic for my next blog, but as summer crept into our lives here, in Norway, it was easier to wish the rain would go away, and wistfully recall good times with old friends. That must explain why I woke up this morning humming the words of Simon & Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair, and not the Stars & Stripes Forever.
The sense of loss brought on by living in what is still, ultimately, a foreign culture, combined with both the isolation many experience when at their sometimes remote ‘summer cabins’ and the simultaneous need to find solace in old and strong American friendships, with friends who are no longer anywhere near, is only raised another notch on the day on which the American Coordinating Council of Norway (ACCN) holds its Frogner Park, Oslo celebration of American ‘Independence Day,’ known more commonly in the U.S. simply as ‘the 4th of July.’ So . . .
Are you goin’ to Scarborough Fair?
(Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme)
Remember me to one who lives there –
He once was a true love of mine.
Now that we’ve gotten our priorities in order, it is time to note – to all Americans overseas – the imminent change in the FBAR reporting procedure. This is the reporting requirement for Americans overseas who have any combination of foreign (non-U.S.) accounts (bank and/or securities)(even one) with, a total of the equivalent of $10,000 at any time during the year. In that case, one is obliged to file what is called the FBAR report – Foreign Bank Account Report. The form itself has the innocuous title, TD F 90-22.1, which only reminds us of how pathetically out-of-tune bureaucracies can be when it comes to assuaging natural human fears of numbers, and people’s related reporting obligations. We leave that essay for another time.
Onward, Americans – to the challenge at hand: reporting your foreign bank accounts – but no longer ‘on paper.’ The imminent news is: you are now (well, starting in a few hours) supposed to only file those forms ONLINE. Yes, paper production has been officially squelched, and hundreds of trees are, on the day you are reading this, being saved as a consequence. On the other hand, hundreds of Americans overseas are trying to figure out how to e-file the online form. We’ll all see how it works out.
I’ve had quite a few inquiries about this form in the past few months, as more Americans in Norway and Europe get ‘on-board’ with their ‘filing obligations,' shall we say nicely. I therefore created a ‘form e-mail’ reply, which takes the desperate and clueless and leads them softly by the hand through the current FBAR form. I’ll copy that here, under the philosophical title, ‘How to Approach the FBAR Form.’
How to Approach the FBAR Form
Here's some FBAR information I usually send folks when they express their concerns. Since it is mostly a secretarial job for me, I don't do it - it's really quite easy for you to do. Read this note below when you open up the form.
As you will see when you open it, each page or section is for a different type of circumstance.
The first page is for starting to list any accounts you actually own yourself. First, you enter your personal information, which will include your Social Security number (called ID number) at the top. Then, there is room in the middle of that page to list your first foreign account (a non-U.S. account)(one you own).
Page 2 is a continuation page. You just put some ID information in the top boxes and then can continue to list any other accounts you own yourself. You put the bank name, address, account number and highest balance during the year for each of the accounts you own yourself.
You use page 3 to start any list of accounts you own jointly with someone else. This can include any joint accounts owned with non-Americans (ex: your Norwegian wife or husband), and highest balance during the year you are filling it out for. (These are joint accounts – therefore, don’t forget to show their name and address, as required.)
You can see that page 4 is where you would list any accounts where all the money is someone else's and is in their account, but you can access it (example: you use that account, which only includes your husband's money, to buy groceries with your debit card). (Don’t forget to show all the requested information for each of those accounts including the name of the other person.)
You can see that page 5 is the page where you would list any account that you have in a company name, not your personal name. You show the company name on that page and the other information as requested, which is similar to that requested on the other pages.
You only use the page types that you need.
The rest of the pages are instructions to read if you need to do that.
At this time, you should report back to 2006. Also note, the year reported is just for you to enter at the top of the pages. Therefore, you are doing the same forms for each year, for each account that was foreign during that year. If you are catching up, you’ve got at least 6 pages involved for one account (1 page x 6 years), and multiples of that if you have more accounts to show.
If you have questions, you can call the IRS – they are the only experts in this matter.
They threaten grave actions against persons who have the obligation to file and don’t. If you had the equivalent of $10,000 in any given year in any combination of foreign accounts, you must file these forms annually. They are due to be received by June 30 of each year. This means not posted-by June 30th but received by them.
Don’t delay in doing these forms.
The address to post them to is in the middle of page 1 . . . .
End of my form e-mail message!
And - oops! No more mailing the form to Detroit!
“Imminent” means: almost immediately. Is tomorrow soon enough? FBAR filings will be electronic starting tomorrow, July 1st, 2013.
The notice was not received by this tax preparer until yesterday, so they’re really giving us a lot of notice on this. Ah, well, it’s probably part of the pared-down ‘American way.’ Still, if Congress wants to save money, I recommend they stop cutting the IRS’s budget, and start cutting their own salaries, redirecting lobbying outlays to public services for the needy, and increasing corporate tax coverage and tax rates. To start. It certainly makes more sense than crippling America’s tax administration.
To help them out a bit, here’s the latest link to information listed at the IRS website. It includes internal links to the form, the FBAR question and answer folks, and other information needed to get started with e-filing of the FBAR form: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Report-of-Foreign-Bank-and-Financial-Accounts-%28FBAR%29
And now, how can we Americans overseas respond when, for example, the ‘Independence Party’ takes place on June 30th, is bound to be rained out, and is half in Norwegian? Answer: With at least serious pride, if not outright glee. Therefore,
Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.
|Posted on March 25, 2013 at 5:55 AM|
Norwegians are out in force this year over Easter break, pounding and skiing the mountain trails, and so, as usual, the media are warning everyone to be careful on their hikes and trips and come home safely.
Norway has rules for how to do that. The Norwegian Touring Association, DNT (Det Norsk Turistforening) publishes the ‘Mountain Rules’ you should know at their website, in Norwegian at: http://www.turistforeningen.no/fjellvettreglene/ .
I don’t know the origin of these rules, but they are grilled into Norwegians at a young age, as well as into most immigrants’ brains. They are common knowledge, a part of Norwegian culture, and can be recited from memory by many, with ready recall.
Let’s call them, in English, the Norwegian Rules for Hiking in the Mountains, although they are equally useful for most nature hikes. Frankly, since perhaps 99% of Norway is pure Nature, they are pretty useful most anywhere.
Here’s an English version I’ve created - for your enjoyment and education, based on the DNT’s ‘real McCoy’:
1. Do not set out on a long hike without training.
This applies to both physical, psychological and intellectual readiness, as well as to equipment. By extension, it is also suggested that ‘practice makes perfect.’ If you have any opportunity to conduct a thorough analysis of your plan, you should do it – and exercise your planning skills by identifying solutions to situations that are both similar and dissimilar to those you have encountered in the past. It is also suggested that if you are going to be out for over a week, you take at least one day’s rest from travelling.
2. Tell somebody where you are going.
The extension here is that at least one other person who is not with you knows where you plan to be when and can and will track you, has your contact information and you carry theirs, and in a way that suggests you plan to be contactable at a specific time and place and way (ex: phone that works). When travelling to places where you can register, such as mountain cabins, then do so.
3. Show respect for the weather.
This means not just carrying your umbrella, but knowing what the entire pattern is that is expected, as well as the chances of changes in the weather, given the season, and conditions such as wind-strength, wind-chill, avalanche-chance, mudslide chance, etc.
4. Be prepared against bad weather and cold, even on short tours.
This has to do with preparing yourself by carrying the proper equipment and selecting that on a conservative basis. People suggest you should always take a backpack of some sort and proper mountain gear, even if you are on what you think will be a short trip, due to the fact that things can develop in ways you did not plan. Getting lost, twisting an ankle, falling unexpectedly – all of these suggest that you foresee the possibility and carry a bit more than you would otherwise think was needed.
5. Listen to experienced mountain experts.
Those who have gone where you are going before you should be a resource you use. This has to do with being instructable and instructed by those who have gone to where you are going – before you went there. Look it up! Find it out! Know the specific risks and the challenges.
6. Use a map and compass.
A map and a compass (and knowing how to use both) are of course essential. Always use the latest editions of maps. Be familiar with how to use the map with a compass. Trust the compass. Nowadays, tools are available to improve your chances of keeping track of your location, with GPS available in hand-carries with good trail maps to boot.
7. Do not go alone.
Besides the fact that it’s generally a happier result when two go instead of one, it’s also giving you an edge if either of you need assistance. It’s not that you don’t think well enough to go alone; it’s just that it is much easier for two people to think smartly about an unexpected situation they find themselves in than, yes, one person.
8. Turn back in time: there is no disgrace in turning around. (Ingen skam å snu!)
As the Norwegians say, “Forsøk ikke å trosse været.” This means, to be direct: Attempt NOT to DEFY the weather. We know – you’re bold, you’re brave, and maybe you’re even very masculine and, of course, you are able to go forward. But are you strong enough to turn around and go back? That’s the question that kills too many would-be mountain-conquerors.
9. Conserve your energy and dig yourself down into the snow if necessary.
This is the ‘igloo’ approach to saving your life – where you create an insulated place to hold up if you get caught out in a snowstorm – or look for that type of shelter where you can survive while things are going bad and before you are rescued. They key here is to do the right thing in time to be prepared for difficult conditions.
Well, I hope these fjellvetreglene, that is ‘mountain rules you should know,’ are enjoyed by many. Perhaps they will even save you, dear Reader. Save you? From who? From - yourself, of course! That is, when you are out in the wild mountains of beautiful nature, wherever you are in the world. Enjoy!
|Posted on March 6, 2013 at 11:50 AM|
In Norway, the old snow is starting to lay on the hills like wrinkles in a white sheet. My husband and I are sitting at our kitchen table, reading news and, well, we’re sequestered. We’re sick. The kids can’t visit and we can’t visit. It’s a little like sequestration, actually. It feels like a punishment, for what, maybe living the good life, which we also do.
As everyone who knows English knows, sequestration is what happens when you put something or someone in a room by themselves or with others that also don’t want to be there, a place where they can’t get out or do anything interesting. They also are not allowed to holler to those who are on the other sides of the walls. They’re like invisible. They do that to Norwegians who can’t turn their necks very well when driving in Arizona. Really, they get sequestration - in Arizona jails and prison, like John Kristoffer Larsgard.
As an American, a culture watcher and an English professional, I have to keep an eye on words. I therefore had to note the weekend edition of the International Herald Tribune, page 5, column 1, which sounds like most of the other thousands of sound bites heard through the fog in the last few days, “Mr. Obama summoned the four top congressional leaders to the Oval Office in an effort to discuss how to move forward after the failure to avoid the cuts, known as sequestration, White House aides said.“
First, it was the fiscal cliff which, if we went over it, who knew what might happen and since we did not, most folks now think we really should have given it a try and seen what happened. Now it is sequestration, which has, somehow, happened. I was ready to blame White House aides for causing this problem with the definition of sequestration, until I discovered it emanates from a much more dangerous source, the Congressional Research Service. This appears to be a real office, located in Washington, D.C., which means they are completely in the dark on these English points. Besides, anyone who is defining sequestration and is also concerned with hiring a geospatial information systems analyst has their net spread too widely, let’s say.
Norwegians know how to focus on things. So I read the sentence to my Norwegian husband and asked him if he knew what sequestration meant. He said, “Er, sequencing?” and I said, “No, sequestration.” “Isn’t that when someone is frustrated when they are at sea?,” he replied. “Why, yes,” I replied. Like the clever Norwegian he is, he has captured the new and modernized core concept completely. I then corrected his understanding with my base-English knowledge. “No, actually, I think it has to do with being stuck somewhere and not being able to get out.” “Well, the congressional leaders were not trapped in the Oval office, were they? They went there of their own accord,” he ventures. Let’s give him that one, I thought. “No, they’re not trapped,” I agree. “No, they’re not trapped,” he continues, gaining ground, “They spent millions to get there, and now that they’re there, they find out the job is not so funny.” My husband means “fun.” He also means the job of being a member of Congress, not the job of going to visit the President.
After a few minutes, it became clear that someone needed to set the record straight – and tell the world what sequestration is and what it has to – or should have to - do with the current mess in Congress. I will try to do that in simple English, since, as everyone knows, sequestration is one of the those special words we don’t use very often – because it sounds very complex.
English has a wonderful way of building up the usages of words in specific areas, such that we can attempt to get at the core meaning and accepted usages of this word by studying its historical usage. Linguists, in addition, feed words into computers to see how often we use them, when, where and why. Since I am not a linguist, I’ll explicate in the old fashioned way – by reference.
The Oxford English Dictionary shows the word, sequestration, was first recorded as being used in the year 1450, with appearances in 1475 and 1581. By then, it referred to offenders who were excluded from the Sacraments. By 1854, it had to do with “delinquents” (yes, delinquents) who were punished by being kept from the Christian service (not that hard to take probably), the food table (very harder to take, probably) and common meetings (easy to take, probably).
Fast forward to now. The Congressional Research Service is reported to define sequestration as “a term used to describe the practice of using mandatory spending cuts in the federal budget if the cost of running the government exceeds either an arbitrary amount or the the gross revenue it brings during the fiscal year.”
Excuse me, but this is counter-intuitive to the actual meaning of the word. Since sequestration has to do with someone or something being kept from someone or something, it relies upon the premise that there is something or someone to be kept away from. And that the something or someone is kept away. Implementing spending cuts when there is no money in the money pot does not qualify as doing something to something. It does qualify as doing something to nothing, but that then does not satisfy the initial premise upon which the word was created and used down through the centuries. It also then does not carry any of its own emotional weight, as the word is supposed to do.
UspoliticsAbout.com (an oxymoron) continues, “Simply put, sequestration is the employment of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts in the face of annual budget deficits.” Again, this statement simply confirms my point.
The Congressional Research Service defines sequestration:
"In general, sequestration entails the permanent cancellation of budgetary resources by a uniform percentage. Moreover, this uniform percentage reduction is applied to all programs, projects, and activities within a budget account.
However, the current sequestration procedures, as in previous iterations of such procedures, provide for exemptions and special rules. That is, certain programs and activities are exempt from sequestration, and certain other programs are governed by special rules regarding the application of a sequester.”
This makes sequestration a two-faced taker, what the Norwegians would call ‘double-moral,’ something they are sure the U.S. does a lot of. Besides, to be exempt from sequestration should mean that one is free to move about. Most public programs in the U.S. these days barely have enough flexibility to wag their social tails, let alone try to move about.
We know. It’s a big laugh contest, a giant drama. Why else would David Falcheck and hundreds of other journalists write stuff like this:
“Days away, sequestration - the dramatic federal spending cuts - may seem like the crisis du jour for the gridlocked U.S. Congress, but the impact would be far-reaching, impacting everything from food inspection, to air traffic control, to defense.” -David Falcheck for newsitem.com
It’s quite scary, but that French touch really helps the medicine go down. Still, why are they holding the lack of money in a room and not letting it out?
I suggest the following alternative definitions be applied, despite the green-eyeshade crowd at CRS:
Option 1. Sequestration is “a legal writ authorizing a sheriff or commissioner to take into custody the property of a defendant who is in contempt until the orders of a court are complied with.” In this sense of the word, Congressional leaders are in contempt of their public duty, and the Sheriff has the right to lock up their mansions and fancy cars until they come up with a decent budgetary arrangement, which, by the way, IS one of their duties. (Thanks to Merriam-Webster online for these.)
Option 2: Sequestration is “a deposit whereby a neutral depositary agrees to hold property in litigation and to restore it to the party to whom it is adjudged to belong.” Now, at least, we are working with a fiscal-related definition. In this case, the money that isn’t there, which is the taxpayers’ money, should be held by a neutral party, say, the President, until the fighting in Congress is over, at which time it should be given to the public. Well, after all, it is theirs. I trust the President to do that.
A third sense is worth noting for its effect on quelling bad-talking, as noted in the following classic example usage: “During their sequestration, jurors were not allowed to speak to reporters.” That’s right. Congress should be sequestered and not be allowed to speak to anyone – until they come to some important decisions on the budget, agreed and common decisions.
Last but not least, the word, sequestration, holds a strong sense of being alone. I’m inclined to think of the poor sod who landed in a dirty locked room, circa 1550, with no bread or water, for stealing an apple from the rich farmer’s garden. Of course, Congress would like you to think of it this way, too. After all, haven’t they done everything they could do? And now, sequestration has come to them anyway. And yet, Merriam-Webster shows the following (questionable) example in the ‘lonely’ category: “What would you bring for sequestration on a desert island?” This is easily modified to read, “What would you bring to a Congressional party?” Answer: Your money, of course, so you could buy some votes.
My husband has long ago lost interest in this, deciding to walk the dog on the ice instead. My balance is not as good. As for me, it’s time to consider today’s dinner menu, and the work waiting for me in my office. What I won’t be doing is holding my breath when some smartie-pants in Washington suddenly realize that sequestration, as they define it, is hurting real people who desperately need the social safety net that our modern tax, budgetary and social service systems were meant to and should provide - on an efficient and ongoing basis.
|Posted on February 9, 2013 at 12:20 PM|
The U.S. Embassy in Oslo - Norway recently held a tax information seminar for American citizens here on January 31, 2013. The special guest was tax attaché at the Internal Revenue Service’s London office, who answered questions as well as presenting key points of interest at this time.
I was glad to have been able to attend. I was also glad to see our American Ambassador to Norway, Barry White, in attendance. Ambassador White expressed his interest and thanks to those who attended, and his attention and presence gave the meeting a necessary gravitas, demonstrating his concern for both the reporting obligations of Americans overseas, and the importance of listening to those in attendance and to the IRS’s representative.
Most attendees were Americans expressing a level of alarm and concern about their tax reporting obligations to the U.S. This is understandable only up to a point: the point at which people realize that their obligations to report their worldwide income to the IRS would rarely result in owing taxes to the U.S. – if they are paying taxes on their foreign income to Norway, as their tax home. Since I began this work, I have rarely seen the anomalous case – that is, the case of an American hiding or trying to hide income from the IRS. What I have seen is a standard scenario: the American works in the foreign country, and for a foreign entity. They pay tax to that foreign country, and that satisfies their obligations. Of course, it is also true that income whose source is the U.S. is, depending on the category, taxed by the U.S. In almost all cases, there is no ‘double-taxation,’ which is the point of the tax treaties.
I thought I would be the ‘fly on the wall’ in this blog – do a bit of journalistic reporting and drop the opinions (well mostly). So here it is: a recent tax seminar, which should be of interest to all Americans overseas, which means millions of people who have the obligation to report their worldwide income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
What are the consequences of not filing? Well, that’s something you can look up. Thousands of dollars in fines and penalties are a possibility, although if you have unintentionally not filed and begin to do so – by filing the current year’s return and the 3 prior years’ returns, you can take advantage of what the IRS calls the Voluntary Disclosure Program, which has certain rules and conditions that can permit a person to simply start filing and not suffer terrible consequences (i.e. if they don’t owe much or any tax).
What about the FBAR bank reports? Well, those should be filed for the last 6 years, not three years – and every year thereafter, and are due in Detroit to be received by June 30th of each year (for persons with a total equivalent of $10,000 US dollars in foreign accounts of a wide variety). So, 2012 FBAR forms are due in the U.S. by June 30, 2013. By the way, the FBAR has been mandatory since 1979! Many millions are now filing this form , in part due to high profile cases, such as the UBS cases.
What about FACTA, the upcoming foreign bank reporting requirement that will affect foreign banks with American citizen accounts? Yes, the banks are already actively working on determining how they will comply. Some will do as the law states and report only Americans’ accounts if they are over $50,000 US dollars equivalent. However, other banks will find that cumbersome and simply report all Americans’ accounts – the banks can decide themselves. By the way, the regulations for this were just published last week, all +200 pages of them.
What about the Form 8938? That form reports bank information and must now accompany the IRS tax return – but only if the person has the total equivalent values indicated in all types of accounts, which are rather high – over $200,000 it was last year for one person.
Will there ever be an exclusion for Americans who simply live and work overseas, with a foreign tax home as permanent? The IRS has probably considered about every type of exclusion they can, but it seems you probably won’t get closer to this than the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, (which lets you pretty much write down up to +$92,900 of foreign earned income (in 2011)(as against a formula based on how many days you were in the U.S. and whether your tax home is a foreign country.)
The U.S. and Norway have a good working relationship with the tax treaty. “Every dollar will get taxed once and no dollar will be taxed twice.” (Ah, well, they may be close . . . -June ) In addition, Americans in Norway won’t pay more than 15% tax on dividends, even when living in Norway as their tax home.
I have children but they don’t have social security numbers, can I claim them? Well, the IRS made huge gains when they discounted exemptions for children without social security numbers, since many people were cheating on the number of children they claimed. You have to look into it, and find out if your children are eligible to get social security numbers. (This is a good idea anyway since, if they are eligible, they can qualify to do other things later in life, such as invest in the U.S., open a bank account with ease, etc.)
What about revoking citizenship? We call this expatriation: this is someone who is relinquishing their citizenship or their green card, and their passport. There are certain filing requirements for these persons. In any case, filing must be updated before a citizen can be considered for revocation. Additional reports are also required.
Are you in compliance? Well, did you know that when you submit your American passport to enter the U.S., you are assuring that you are updated on all of your tax filing requirements? It’s in the fine print!
If I voluntarily file my updating tax forms to the IRS, can I be sure I won’t be penalized? Hard to know, without knowing your facts. The statute of limitations, though, is 3 years if you are filing, and if you are not? In that case, there is no statute of limitations: the IRS could demand that you present data and information all the way back to when you first moved abroad /had unreported foreign income.
On Recordkeeping: Keep good records! Use the ‘shoebox method’ if you cannot do more: If it is related to your tax report, put it in that shoebox and put it in the attic. Don’t throw anything away for at least 4 years and, even then, don’t throw away anything related to the price you pay for a house, or stocks, etcetera, as that can be related later to taxable income classification. Also: Keep your records in a format which is up-to-date! If you have old floppy discs that are essential to your tax information, you must get them into a format which can be used - as you go forward in time.
On Identity Theft: The IRS is seeing a remarkable increase in the amount of identity theft. One key suggestion is that you always shred documents which have important numbers and information on them, not just throw them away. Protect all materials of this nature from outside discovery.
On E-mail: The IRS never sends e-mail. The most profitable crime in the world today must surely be internet fraud, as it is nearly cost-free and involves making huge sums.
The IRS has information on all forms, including a publication on overseas filing, Publication 54, which you can see online. The IRS also has materials on how to protect yourself from identity theft and scams of various types, which you will find at their website, www.irs.gov. The website has also been reorganized so that it is easier to find materials using the search box function.
Well, a cold, dark and icy night was made a little less cold, dark and icy by the concerted efforts of the Embassy and IRS staff. And that’s all from the fly on the wall.
Of course, if you’re still confused, just write me, and I’ll do your individual personal income tax forms for you. That’s a part of my business!
With best regards,
|Posted on September 30, 2012 at 3:55 AM|
This article is about context. First, we always look at things from where we stand. In my case, that is as an American living and working overseas and doing U.S. tax forms for Americans overseas. As a consequence of that work, I am regularly completing the foreign tax credit forms for Americans overseas. Why? Because their income is overseas, they are taxed in their ‘tax home’ country which is overseas, and that credit demonstrates to the IRS that they do not also owe taxes to the United States on the same income. This is the first and best use of the foreign tax credit.
Then there are the abuses of the foreign tax credit, and since I find little ‘plain English’ on the issue, I thought I would make an effort to provide some. First, Romney claims he does not have to reveal his tax returns. For Americans in Norway, this is laughable: our taxable income is emblazoned online for all to see, compliments of the Norwegian tax authority, and one’s income is public knowledge for anyone interested in looking you up -for at least a while each year. While this would seem to be inconsistent with Europe’s move toward favoring the protection of personal privacy, it is apparently an ingrained element of the Jante Law in Norway – that is, the unwritten law which states that no one is allowed to be any better than anyone else, and if you think so, you better not think so. Ja vel, moving on.
Yahoo News reports an interesting discussion with tax attorney, Alvin Brown in late August: http://news.yahoo.com/irs-concerns-foreign-tax-credit-abuses-raise-questions-071009421.html . In this, the weaknesses of the foreign tax credit are noted, and the IRS’s efforts to re-consider it and reign in abuses are also discussed briefly. The foreign tax credit is available to write down taxability in the U.S., as we saw with the American overseas example above. It is also available for Americans living in the U.S., which would mean, basically, that they don’t have to pay some taxes to the U.S. because they have paid them, yes, to a foreign country. A rather uncomfortable fact, don’t you think? For someone who is walking the streets of America and who supposedly supports U.S. efforts to do the many things public funds need to help do – build roads, open schools, create clean drinking water, clean air, and manage all of the costs of maintaining a civil society.
Then, there is the added notice mentioned by Mr. Brown in the Yahoo news article: “IRS Notice 2004-20, IRB 2004-11, March 15, 2004, identifying certain foreign tax credit issues as" tax avoidance transactions" for purposes of the tax shelter disclosure, registration, and list maintenance regulations a purported stock acquisition that is intended to generate credits for foreign taxes paid on gain that is not subject to tax in the United States.” These can be administered in such a way as to raise questions for the IRS, but remain ‘legal’ avenues for not paying U.S. taxes to the U.S.
Now, let’s run an example using MR. MR lives in the U.S. and makes a LOT of money. He could put it into stocks in the U.S. and invest in the U.S.. He could, actually, decide, on purpose, that he would help the U.S. out of its debt and economic slowdown. He could help America, in other words, by using his money to help America and Americans. The problem is that he has options. To remind, whatever option MR takes, he has to sign the tax forms sent to the IRS. Irregardless of how much he may contest later that he has no idea what those forms say and do, he is, in fact, legally liable for anything he sends to the IRS. After all, as we all know, lack of knowledge of the law is not a defense to the breaking of it.
But no, MR sends his money to another country – and hey, he pays tax on it there. Foreign income tax. Why not? In the non-sleezy version of the story, MR pays tax on it in the foreign country, and then is able to use that tax as a credit against paying tax to the U.S. . This means he uses it as a credit so that he does not help America by paying taxes to America – he helps himself. The foreign tax credit also allows what is called “carry-over”. This means he could pay foreign tax and even carry it over from year to year, using it as a tax credit so as not to pay tax to the U.S. - from one year to another – continually reducing his taxes to the U.S. over more than one year at a time.
That’s only one aspect of it. He’s also able to get whatever he is actually getting on his money whereever that money is. And it’s not in the U.S. – that’s the point: it’s somewhere else. MR’s money is, presumably, somewhere where it is not used for U.S. purposes, does not help put people back to work, does not help people who are sick keep their homes, does not help people who must be hospitalized pay their health care bills. No, that money is somewhere, of course, where it is making more money for MR. This is Romney economics in a nutshell.
MR has this money and it’s not in the U.S. Why? This is MR’s crime. As a result, he gets to walk American streets, breath clean American air, drive its albeit crumbling highways and roads, drink its cleaned water, use its nice toilets, eat at its restaurants, and all this time, he is not paying for the air, the water, the roads, the infrastructure. Of course, none of those things come for free – it’s all paid for with tax dollars. But MR is not paying those tax dollars – to the U.S. that is. No, he is paying it to some foreign country that promises to make more money out of his money than the U.S. economy can make.
Charity is charity – good to give a big chunk just before running for president. But charity is something you can give to whomever you like – it doesn’t have to cover health care for the poor, food for the starving, housing assistance programs, infrastructure improvements. It sounds so self-less, but it’s a completely managed giving-track. It’s MR’s own giving track, whatever it was. You could truly say that MR’s charity gifts reveal a contempt for the American tax system’s most burdensome and needy recipients – society at large.
This is MR’s apparent priority number one: make money out of my money so MR will have more of it – so what if it is not in the United States? MR at least is in control of it if he can use that foreign tax credit, and in doing so, he’s undermining the very foundations on which the U.S. was built: shared responsibility for certain expenses for the health and welfare of the population at large.
According to Alvin Brown, tax attorney, Romney’s revealed 2010 and 2011 foreign tax credits “are obviously large and complex as a consequence of their substantial disclosed foreign source income.”
In a later Yahoo news release, late September, it’s confirmed that “The majority of Mr Romney's income comes in the form of dividends and capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income.” Additionally, PWC, his accounting firm, has come forward with a letter confirming that he never paid less than 13% tax annually. Still, the question I have is this: If you are going to have to pay tax, and the tax on dividends and capital gains is going to be your type of tax – because you don’t, for example, work, but have lots of investments, then why would you not invest in U.S. companies and U.S. businesses? The only reason I can think of is that he was more interested in seeing the amount of money he could make anywhere else that might be more economically profitable at this point in time – to himself. He would prefer to make money than save America. He would prefer to line his pockets than line the pockets of the unemployed.
We all make choices, and the most basic are for our self-preservation. Still, the whole idea that Romney is sitting in America, driving its streets, flying its skies, breathing its clean air, and drinking its clean water, then it only makes ethical sense that he should not be able to take the foreign tax credit, and that if he does, he should have to tell us what he thought was so important to invest in in a foreign country. For example, if he had invested in Hyundai in Korea, I would say, well, maybe that is alright. After all, Hyundai is building plants in the U.S. and uses American employees, parts and factories to build their cars. My husband has a Hyundai in Norway. It was built in the U.S.A. Nice going, Hyundai.
But News 4 reported on Sept. 25th that Romney’s 2011 tax return revealed he had invested in ’a Chinese oil company with links to Iran.’ Chinese oil companies are drilling oil in various places, among them Africa, where they are helping to build roads and infrastructure, but American? Iran? Unfortunately, we're hardly even on speaking terms. And no, it’s not a U.S.-enhancing investment - unless you think we should give China all our money instead of just most of it.
In the same article, an Obama campaign strategist claims Romney is invested in “ a fund that hedges against American Treasuries.” Well, who can believe a campaign strategist. But hedge funds? To put it simply, this is one of the ‘funny money’ types of investing that is not producing real jobs for real people, but does take money out of the economy for what could arguable be described as gambling or betting on what markets will do - for self-enrichment goals. http://www.channel4.com/news/romneys-tax-return-reveals-china-investment
Frankly, I don’t think I want to hear more from Romney on what he decided to invest in. If the above are any indication, ethics has not been one of his considerations in the matter. I think I already know his approach: everyone take care of themselves, since I’m going to take care of me - and also close the public purse. That, in my opinion, is counter to the model for creating a civil society and embracing rule of law, for sharing the burdens of modern development, while sharing the risks of investing in future progress together at home. Let Romney take his millions and go retire where? Somewhere foreign, perhaps. Then let the IRS audit his accounts and foreign tax credit usage and close the ability of Americans living in the U.S. to use this as a tax credit against their obligations to pay taxes at home to the U.S.
Sign me an American attorney, living and working overseas, paying foreign taxes and reporting annually to the IRS
|Posted on August 11, 2012 at 5:30 PM|
Subject: Financial & tax reporting to the IRS and U.S. - for Americans Abroad
Take: This is an update of my discussion of several tax and foreign bank related issues that are particularly noteworthy for Americans living and working overseas. It has to do with the need to report to the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury Department.
This summer, I've had the pleasure to spend the very rainy season doing tax forms for Americans overseas. Ahh, the beauty of formulas and the certainty of numbers when low pressure and constant rain become so challenging to love. And now a conflagration of related news of note has appeared on my personal horizon, albeit mostly digital given the foggy views these days.
It was then that I realized that I had not yet shared the presentation I did for the Fireside Forum group of the American Women’s Club of Oslo. This was delivered in April, 2012, and covers all the basics. Since I can't manage to upload it to this blog page, you will find the link to the presentation at my slideshare page:
One of my core points during that April presentation was that global financial concerns must be managed by creating greater transparency - at the individual level. After all, how will Greece solve its problems if they “only take cash” from the Norwegian tourists (the topic of my next blog post), instead of “having to show their income for tax purposes” (...they seem not to know what that is).
On the American side, most Americans overseas are busy working and reporting their income to their country of residence - for taxation in that country. They're rather less concerned with updating their filing status with the Internal Revenue Service while living abroad, and much much less interested in telling the U.S. Department of the Treasury how much they have in foreign banks (for no good reason I can think of, since it is not being taxed in the U.S. ;). And you, Stateside reader, probably think it would be nice to be an ‘American in Paris.’ From what I hear, you would be checking your French tax rate, then your U.S. taxes due, and then you would be cursing that you still owed tax to the U.S. after paying the lower French rates. And then you would report to the IRS, as required, and you would stop complaining, after all, since you would be living the joi de vivre life of brasseries-in-the-sunshine, with beauty and joyful ambience around every corner.
Now that you have studied up the forgoing, and are starting to become alarmed, let’s try this recent IRS notice on for size, dated June 26, 2012. This is entitled, “IRS Announces Efforts to Help U. S. Citizens Overseas Including Dual Citizens and Those with Foreign Retirement Plans.” Here is the link:
First, this notice from the IRS indicates that new procedures are going to be in place – to help Americans who have not been reporting to do so now. The new procedures go into effect on September 1, 2012. The article refers to the first new procedure as being that, for citizens who owe little or no back taxes, there will be no “penalties or additional enforcement actions” -if they catch up their tax form filings and financial bank report form filings now and would then owe less than $1500 in back taxes. Well, that is not so new, as most folks are in this category and don’t now pay penalties or experience enforcement actions when they catch up their tax form and bank form filings.
Here is some more specificity on the scope of the new procedures:
Let us say, for instance, that you would owe more tax than $1500 and/or have intentionally not been filing your U.S. tax forms while living abroad? You might then want to look into the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP):
Here is the basic run-down, with links to forms and straightforward, relatively uncomplicated writing by the IRS (now that’s nice):
Now, do you finally “get the picture?” as we say in Chicago.
I may as well close with this interesting audio news report, covered on National Public Radio on Wednesday, August 8, 2012. You can find it on the www.npr.org website, at:
The title of the audio story is, "Tax Evaders, Beware."
Here is a link to the transcript:
As an aside, I really don't know why people don't want to file these forms, except that it's a bit of a hassle. Procrastination produces such unremitting guilt at some point, and even though death and taxes are both certainties in life, why should you let not-filing-your-tax forms ruin your happiness on a continual basis? Stress after all is linked to inflammation, which, left unchecked, can precipitate premature death.
Asides aside! Time to get yourself updated on the tax reporting and bank and securities financial reporting requirements which all American citizens (no matter where they live in the world, and no matter whether they are dual citizens or not) must abide by.
It’s not as scary as it sounds: it’s a matter of just doing it – or having someone do the forms for you, after you collect your information together. If you are in a country with a tax treaty with the U.S., the general routine results in the following scenario: you report your foreign income to the IRS, and if needed, also your foreign taxes paid. The IRS sees this return, reviews it, and says to themselves, “Oh, okay.” They then do not call you or write to you, do not bill you, and they never e-mail you. What could be better? Things could be a lot worse than catching up with these filings – such as not catching up with them before foreign banks begin providing your account information to the IRS anyway, under new rules coming soon. In other words, if you are like most U.S. citizens abroad, nothing is worse than not doing these forms. Therefore, if you are ‘like’ most U.S. citizens abroad, just do them.
|Posted on May 13, 2012 at 12:50 PM|
Seven days of trial. About events that occurred in approximately 6 ½ minutes.
In this section, I will discuss the contents of John’s attorney’s Motion for a Directed Verdict and Motion for a New Trial, as well as the prosecutor’s response in opposition to some points. I also comment on some of the prosecutor’s closing statements and discuss the context of the case generally.
The Motion for New Trial, and response papers were filed just last month. The Motion for a New Trial was summarily denied by the judge just before the sentencing hearing began less than two weeks ago, after which John was dumped in a solitary cell and stripped naked, as noted earlier. (Please see my earlier posts for other information.) While the transfer to an intermediate holding facility usually takes two weeks, John was whisked away in less than 3 days. This never happens, say those in the area. In fact, he was literally being whisked away while his mother, Liv, was meeting with his defense attorney, who was assuring her it would probably be a couple weeks before he would be transferred.
Who’s scared of what? Yes, rush him outtahere, so we can get him buried in the Arizona prison system. And shave his head right away. So we have the pleasure of humiliating him in that way, especially before he should manage in some way to save himself. And then let’s make sure he’s buried so deep in bureaucracy that everyone forgets about him. We’ll surely save the State’s face that way, won’t we?
I continue to have unanswered questions about this case. One question I asked about as soon as I heard about it was: why did the prosecutor spend 7 days to try this case? I couldn’t for the life of me think of an answer. Surely what happens in 6 ½ minutes can be reduced to less than 7 days of jury trial, no matter how questionable the evidence – unless of course it was very important to be sure that the jury realized how important it was to return the correct verdict. Which after 7 days would very clearly be guilty, of course.
Yes, we are re-visiting one of our latest conundrums – that involving two foreigners in a relatively new rental car – new to them, passing through an unfamiliar, small and criminal, western American town trying to pick up their luggage. Six and one-half minutes later, the mother is an Iranian terrorist and the son who was driving is thrown into jail for intentionally trying to kill the townspeople. For being perhaps a snot, he’s chased down in the streets by locals who attack and confront his car – while he is trying to find out where to pick up his luggage after an accident and leave the area to continue his trip with his mother.
His bail is set for $1 million dollars, which conveniently keeps him in a local jail – for seven months, while the showy trial is set up. Did I say set up? Putting someone in hand and foot chains for 7 months in jail is news that’s going to get around, you know. It makes him appear more dangerous – or, er, as if he were more dangerous than he might have been when he was driving around, negatively, while people chased him for less than 6 ½ minutes.
Did I call that town “criminal”? I should be more precise. Comparing city crime rates per capita (based on the size of the population), from across the country, Winslow, Arizona is not at all a murderous place. Nor is robbery a problem. And when it comes to auto theft, it’s only slightly over the national average. These all make sense. After all, you can’t get away with murder and auto theft while living in a small town. But come to aggravated assault, burglary and larceny theft, and Winslow is not only twice the Chicago average, but twice the national average. These figures are from the year 2006. Still, that’s a town with a crime problem – a local crime problem. And, of course, it is true that many wonderful people live there, and are doing good work every day.
It appears the county, which is a majority Indian reservations, had a State’s attorney who is going to do something about that crime rate. It is certainly more convenient, in a very small town, to do that by finding someone who doesn’t live there to blame things on. Welcome, John Kristoffer Larsgard.
And now, we also have an attorney from the area on Youtube, repeating and repeating what we have already heard: that Larsgard was a dangerous dangerous guy, and he, well, he nearly hurt some kids, and he scared them and, well, he was driving like a crazy person, and he drove straight towards someone (um, who was trying to confront him on foot, arguably trying to corral him, taunt him, dare him and/or waylay him), and he brushed against someone else (um, who was trying to attack the car and be in the way and whom he did not see, after being smashed in the face so hard his nose was broken). And by the way, the jury found him guilty. This attorney is a member of the Navajo County Attorney’s office. Since Navaho County proudly claims that “People are arrested and booked into the Navajo County Jail on warrants for failure to appear for traffic tickets and failure to pay fines,” we can see that the old ‘debtor’s prison’ still exists in this particular western county: I’m sure jail helps them collect the funds to support the administration, which is busy booking 360 people into the jail each month. Jobs jobs jobs. America used to prioritize human rights.
There is also a new blog, called “The Truth About John Kristoffer Larsgard” which seems a front for someone who agrees with the jury’s decision, and is trying to counter criticism of the verdict by claiming that . . . see above paragraph. The related website, http://larsgardtruth.com, was registered on May 1st, and the identity of the creator is hidden, according to my ‘Whois’ search registration check. Who thinks it is so important to pay for this? A Facebook page is also dedicated to “The Truth” while, frankly, “liking” the verdict has little to do with whether John Kristoffer Larsgard should be in prison right now.
What they’re not telling you is what I am going to tell you, as it was reported to me. And from where I sit, the “truth” about John Kristoffer Larsgard, and this whole incident, is that he should have been cited for traffic violations, been made to pay a fine – and for external damage to the rental vehicle, and sent on his way with his mother. At the same time, the townsfolk who harassed him and bated him with their unfamiliar anger, while corralling and chasing his car, should have been sent back home - along with the bill for the interior damage to the car, possible charges of harassment, and a charge of aggravated assault against Mendoza.
Now, it also appears that John’s student visa for staying in the U.S. had expired, so he should have renewed that but had not. The Navajo County authorities appear to like the idea of deporting him. OF course they like this idea: it would lend ‘face’ to their own actions by continuing a stream of negative legal activity against the guy. It is reported that he could be eligible for deportation after half his prison sentence of 7 ½ years is served, a sentence he should never have gotten in the first place, and which still should be set aside. But can they ride out the storm of criticism for the 3 ¾ years of prison John should not have had to serve and is now serving? And who’s going to ‘pay’ for this wrong judgment when the last hammer falls?
But first, back to the jury. We all know that a jury trial is sacred, isn’t it? No, Readers. Consider the question more closely. A jury is human, behaves in human ways and makes human judgments and human mistakes. In a town with a population of approximately 10,000 persons and a total of just over 2,000 households, where the jurors were hand-picked by the prosecutor and where nearly everyone has a close connection to everyone else - and where the star witness, the one with the bludgeoning fist, is determined to be found blameless in reaching into a car and crushing the driver’s nose, a jury has its work cut out for it. After all, the victim doesn’t live there. The star witness does. And now the car is full of blood. Who’s paying for that? Yes, in an area where everyone involved knows everyone else, it is probably not hard to decide that, after 7 days of trial over what happened in 6 ½ minutes, the verdict must be guilty. How could it even have taken them two hours to come to that conclusion? After all, they have to walk out of that courtroom and, well, live there. There, with the star witness and his family and friends. In a county which is mostly Indian reservations. (Real Asset Inventory, Real AZ Corridor, Dec., 2011). And a relatively poor county, with per capita income that is about half of Arizona’s state average, and only 40% of the country’s income average. People here need to be pretty concerned about their money, since they generally don’t have as much as the rest of us. And fixing a broken car is something that will cost money. And so does 7 days of trial, an impressive amount of money. More than they have, but then it was a good show.
I have some words on my mind. Hazing is one. Justice is another. Impeachability is another. Deposition is another. And politics is another. I will explain.
It has been very interesting to me, not only as an American attorney but as a person with a professional interest in the use of language, English, inter-cultural communication, Norwegian and American cultural differences, and how to bridge culture gaps, to consider what has occurred in this case and what is occurring in American culture.
Right now, John languishes in the Arizona version of purgatory while they try to decide which prison is best suited to dampen his pentient for murdering innocent by-standers, for quelling his fully-trumped-up maniacal and dangerous killing instincts.
I had barely stepped off the plane in the U.S. this past week when I heard the word hazing – multiple times, as in hazing, a felony crime in Florida. Apparently, hazing is taking over America. Other concepts we don’t hear on the Norwegian news when the subject of the United States comes up include the need to identify terrorists in our midst, which I heard at least 6 times in my first two days on American soil, and continue to hear repeatedly every day – until I turn off the radio and TV. Were we prepared to see them when they arrived? To know them when we saw them? How could we possibly be more vigilant? Persons around the world would love to ruin America and we should do what we can to prevent that. It’s human nature, after all, to run around looking for who has things better than you, and try to get a piece of it for your own. Pure greedy selfish human nature. Like hazing. Like a bunch of locals chasing a rental car being driven badly by a person who, frankly, doesn’t want to get to know you and doesn’t care. A person from a culture in which persons never yell at you as you drive along, and never run around chasing cars or confronting cars. A person from a culture where even the police speak softly when they stop you for no-probable-cause searches. In Norway, it’s called kontrol and it means control.
No, I almost thought I should find out how I could, myself, take part in the campaign to find hidden terrorists in America. It was then I realized I was suffering from jet lag and a lingering cold. I was being too hard on myself. After all, I had just landed in my beloved homeland, the country of my birth. The land I have, over the years, loved to come back to. The land where I’ve been lucky enough to experience so many unbelievably beautiful sights - the crowning glories of nature, the most deliriously competent works of man. Where I’ve heard the most beautiful music ever made, by Nature and by man. The land where I’ve had so many close friends, now scattered to all corners of the country, all of them working their magic in their work for the good of all. The land of so many committed souls, committed to service and mankind in every way. A land of tolerance and patience, of hard work and caring natures.
I began to land in another country when I landed here. It started about 5 years ago. I would know I was home when someone gave me or someone I could see from my bicycle or car the finger. And it was rather odd as it almost always occurred within a day or two of my arrival in the U.S. It was usually accompanied by choice epithets, such as “F___ Y__!” Since I now drive like a Norwegian, this would occur while I was either obeying the speed limit, or riding my bike on the sidewalk. When I would hear this, I would simply say to myself, “Ah, there you are, America. Showing me your new real colors. Now I’m finally ‘home’ again. God bless America!”
But I must be getting scatter-brained, what with all the commotion and different directions I could go on this story. Back to that one question I asked the reporter early on, and never did hear an answer to. The question, why did the prosecutor spend 7 days to try this case? It stewed. I slept on it. And then I had a revelation. I knew the answer. I know exactly why the prosecutor spent 7 days to try this case. You know why? Because the judge let him. Reader, read on.
The Motion for a New Trial arguments described and the prosecutor’s response
John’s attorney filed, this April, his Motion for a New Trial. It’s been read by more than one disinterested American attorney, and found to be just fine, as legal filings go. His arguments were several. It stated that the trial should be new because the verdict was contrary to the law and the weight of the evidence, the prosecutor was guilty of misconduct, the court erred in deciding a matter of law or in instructing the jury, to the substantial prejudice of John, and/or, for other reasons that were not John’s fault, he had not received a fair and impartial trial.
Among the details mentioned were that John was not permitted to have his medicine, medicine prescribed by his Norwegian doctor, which the nurse practitioners at the jail had in their possession but chose not to give him. In response, the prosecutor claimed no evidence of this had been produced at the trial. Well, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
The Motion for New Trial also claimed that the prosecutor had failed to disclose that two of the witnesses “entered the litigation process against the rental car insurance company.” The prosecutor’s response was that he didn’t know that, so how could he disclose it.
Now, Reader, what is happening here? An arguably-enraged local sneaks up on the driver, John, and smashes him in the face. There’s blood all over the interior. Proximate cause? The guy with the iron fist of course. Result? It does not take actual notice to the prosecutor to know that everyone knows that the car rental agency’s insurance company is doing what insurance companies do best: they perform their “duty to defend” - and they go after the people who caused the damage and try to get them to pay. How much does the front interior of a 2010 Toyota Camry cost to replace? That would cost a good amount of money, I would imagine. And who is responsible for the damage to the exterior of the car, especially if the driver was being mobbed into a cross-cultural panic attack? I ask John’s mother, Liv, who says, “They keep asking me to pay for it, and I keep telling them no, it wasn’t our fault there was blood all over the car.”
Getting back to those witnesses, apparently two witnesses entered the litigation “against the rental car agency”? That means that two witnesses were busy saying that they had to – absolutely had to – pop this guy in the face - or surround him – or chase him – or cause him to stop driving and get ‘caught’ because? Otherwise, they would have to pay for the interior damage to the car, at least. And at least one ‘someone’ has a giant incentive to frame the incident as a need to defend himself. After all, what’s left after the extremely aggressive personal violence against the driver but to claim self-defense? It’s the only ‘way out,’ as everyone can plainly see. That 7 days of jury trial over what occurred in 6 ½ minutes sure got long, though. Well, what is one to do when the case can only be made by arguing that the witnesses were strictly involved only for their own protection? After all, ”Self-defense is about protection, not getting even.” (Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Criminal Justice System, p. 130) It would not be an available defense to someone who was actually just pissed off that a jerky driver was making a snotty correction to his lost-en-route status. And decided to run after the car, stare at the driver through the front window, crouch and play his bets, and confront the car, and the driver, and be joined by others who attempted to surround the car and the foreign couple in it, and then blame them for the bloody car and damages afterwards.
The fact that two witnesses were testifying “against the rental car agency” would have meant that the credibility of their testimony would have been impeachable. As we know, one way in which a witness’s testimony can be diminished in significance, and one way in which that creates “reasonable doubt” in the mind of a juror is by attacking the credibility of a witness. “This is called impeaching the prosecutor’s evidence.” (Complete Idiot’s Guide, p. 128) Here we have two witnesses for the State whose testimony would have been impeachable on the basis of their own conflict of interest in the case, and yet, it would seem from the Motion for New Trial and the prosecutor’s response to it, that such impeachment was never conducted – because the basis for it was not known to the defense attorney during the trial. But the Motion for new Trial was dismissed – without argument – by the judge.
The impeachability of two main witnesses, never explored. What’s going on there? A 2010 Toyota Camry whose interior is covered with blood, the proximate cause of which was the bludgeoning fist of the star witness for the State hitting the victim –that would be the accused, of course, who was, as a consequence, so dangerous that he was kept in hand and leg irons for 7 months before his trial, at which he was then strutted out like a pig to a slaughter. It looks more and more like this, and that makes the ‘truth about John Kristoffer Larsgard” start to, well, stink.
The Motion for a New Trial continues, arguing that the prosecutor committed misconduct when he argued to the jury that Larsgard was placing a fake ‘911’ emergency call in order to pretend to not be at fault, because, he argued, Larsgard could have seen the police coming to the scene at the time the call was made. Based on the evidence, this theory was, factually, shown to be clearly untrue; John could not have seen or known that the police were ‘on their way’ when he called 911 for help. And yet, even after the evidence showed this to be untrue, the prosecutor continued to argue it was the case.
On a point of law, it was required that the prosecutor prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, not just that Larsgard was driving toward people, but that he intended to put them in fear of immediate physical injury. The Motion for New Trial suggests he was actually already trying to flee when he executed the famous three-point turn.
The Motion for New Trial suggests that the verdict was “against the weight of the evidence,” noting that the jury acquitted John of aggravated assault against Mendoza, the guy with the magic protected fist. And if that was the case, he could not be guilty of the same crime against the lady with children at the sidewalk hot dog stand. My question is, did they have a permit for that stand? Don’t they know it’s dangerous to set up business on the sidewalk?
The Prosecutor’s response was that he was “arguing reasonable inferences.” Well, it was a nasty few minutes – that is certain. Let’s see what those look like, in the prosecutor’s closing argument.
In opening, the prosecutor states to the jury, “I’m asking you to compare what they said to what the defendant’s story was that you heard . . ., because only by comparing the two can you decide who is telling the truth and who is not.” Really? This is not the standard by which the jury was to decide what conclusion to come to in the case. The standard was to follow the wording of the criminal statute and ask themselves if they could find that those precise acts were, word for word, found in this case “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, the prosecutor fills the case with every single person who ever laid eyes on the car, both before they were yelling at him, and then afterwards, when various locals try to talk to him, angry already, and try to chase him down in the streets.
The standard in the main count, as noted by the prosecutor, involved proving intent: “you have to show that that person intentionally, means it’s the person’s objective or goal to cause that result. Was it the defendant’s goal to place these people in reasonable fear of injury?” My question is: before or after being screamed at and your lost rental car run down in the streets? Before or after having your face broken up while sitting stock-still in your car with your window open?
The prosecutor continued, further into the closing statement, “And if it’s the defendant not telling the truth, why not? Could it be that the defendant doesn’t want to admit on something as minor as going the wrong way, that he wouldn’t follow the rules, he doesn’t want to admit that much to you?” Reader, what did this have to do with a charge that could earn this Norwegian years in prison in the land of the free? When I hear this, I hear taunting. Of course it’s not taunting: it’s zealous advocacy of the State’s important interest in protecting the health, safety and welfare of its citizens. Or is it? The prosecutor criticizes for not turning his head, if he did not, to see the people on the sidewalk when he made the three-point turn, but he doesn’t mention that John has had cervical surgery that may limit his ability to turn his head in the way required to see that. Not only does the prosecutor approach the jury in the closing with the above taunting remark about the possibility that John would not admit to a slight offense, but also includes a criticism of John’s having made a written statement to police before having the consultation with an attorney. In that statement, as the prosecutor even mentions in the closing argument, John wrote, admitting he had gone the wrong way. It seems what in literature would be called a Catch-22: John can’t win by admitting he did do something wrong – which he did admit, and John will be counted as having not admitted that he did do something wrong, which will demonize him before the jury.
The prosecutor’s magic wand travels in similar ways over the testimony of the 7-day trial in his closing. He states at one point, “If everybody got their stories together, if everybody got together and wrote a script and said: everybody, remember this, this is what we are going to say. Then their stories would have matched perfectly, but they didn’t, because people . . have different focuses and hear different things, but they didn’t get together and get the story straight. There isn’t a script here they are testifying from, but that claim was made.” Does someone such as myself really have to say, at this point, that just because the stories are close and are not completely similar, does not mean that they were not created, embellished and re-packaged by individuals who have no other place to live but there, and no other choice but to fit in there - so as to assure that the foreigner would not walk? Nor that they didn’t have to be “scripted” to be managed for the purpose of assuring that they would do their best to - save the star witness from losing face in the situation?
The facts are reviewed in the closing statement having to do with John ‘backing up hard’ and also driving on a flat tire. Apparently, it was real important that John should realize – or not – whether he was driving on a flat. Remarkable Catch-22 stuff. If I’m having a panic attack as I become surrounded by yelling, screaming, running people I don’t know, in a foreign country, I am not going to be more or less guilty of aggravated assault in that jurisdiction because I am or am not driving on a flat. Lack of flat-tire familiarity is something most Norwegians suffer from, in part since the standards by which a car is controlled in Norway includes roadblocks at which Norwegian police check over everything in your car to see that it meets legal standards. If you or your car don’t meet the standards, your car can be towed and you can find another way to get around, sometimes for an extended period of time and sometimes forever, if you’ve had a drink. By the way, had these witnesses been drinking?
The prosecutor reminds the jury that they don’t have to prove motive, but that the motive when he drove towards Mr. Mendoza at one point could be seen by his actions – and that was reported by, ere, Mendoza, one of the witnesses who must have been appearing “against the rental car agency.” He claimed John’s goal was to hurt him, while John claimed it was not to hurt him. And he didn’t hurt him – or hit him. The various confrontations John has with townspeople yelling at him and chasing him in the car, challenging him by standing in front of him, and what sounds like corralling behavior on the part of some of the townspeople, should have shown the jury, in my opinion, that the man was panicking and was not responding well – perhaps was incapable of responding well - to arguably wild behavior on the part of the local population. I still say, the various confrontations smack of Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Anyone’s a sucker if you’re after them. And you get to be king for spurring the attack on: Long live the Lord of the Flies. “I’m asking you to simply hold the defendant responsible for what he did that day, no matter what his reasoning was for it, he needs to be held accountable. So I’m asking you to find him guilty of eight counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, one count of endangerment,” and the prosecutor’s closing statement ends. Hey, you tell people in your community what to do often enough, and guess what: they’ll do it, even it goes against the law and is unethical. That’s been proven: I heard it on NPR last week.
In the reply to the Motion for New Trial, the prosecutor reminds the court of the cherished right to trial by jury. The right is, historically, to a trial “by a jury of one’s peers.” The idea was to prevent a judge – or someone beholden to the king – from deciding on a harsh fate for an accused, for political or other non-evidentiary reasons. In John’s case, a jury of his peers would be 12 Norwegians who know English, perhaps also who live part-time in the U.S. In fact, a “jury of one’s peers” is not the wording of the U.S. right. Instead, the right is to a “speedy and public trial” which, arguably, John did not get, and “by an impartial jury of the state and district . . .,” which, I am suggesting, he actually could not get in that county and that location.
So we’re back to the 7 days of trial testimony and the 6 ½ minutes during which all of these events occurred.
One of the types of evidence that is used to great and good effect in court cases is based on depositions. Depositions are recorded interviews that do not occur in the courtroom, but are treated as court testimony, are recorded by a court transcriber, and in which the person who would be interviewed is asked questions by both sides in the case. A deposition is useful to preserve testimony for trial. Either party can request that a deposition of a witness be taken. In this case, the defense attorney requested a deposition of Liv Larsgard. She was, after all, the only person who was actually in the same place at the same time as all of the events which took place. And it was necessary that she, eventually, go back to Norway, while John was held on $1 million dollars bail. According to what I have been told, when the defense attorney sought to have Liv deposed while she was present in Arizona, the prosecutor demanded that a deposition of the mother not occur, under any circumstances, not then and not later. When the judge hesitated, the prosecuting attorney approached the bench and said, tightly, No deposition. The judge looked down and softly mumbled, No deposition. Two weeks later, when Liv Larsgard was busy in Norway trying to put her work life at the nursing home back together and pay her bills, the prosecuting attorney was strutting in the Arizona court, taunting the defense for not having her available at that time.
As for myself, I can’t imagine why the prosecutor wanted to hear her say anything at all. After all, in the course of that 7 day trial, Liv Larsgard was on the stand for less than one hour. Reader, this is by her own estimate. The rest of the time she was made to sit outside in the hall during all other witness testimonies. She says she even recalls the State asking the judge if they couldn’t hurry up and finish with her.
Which brings us back to the conduct of this case, and that brings us back to the judge. The judge in this case is an accomplished graduate not only of Stanford but also of Northwestern, and is administratively supervised by another judge, who happens to be the woman married to the prosecuting attorney in this case. I find it hard to believe that this would not affect the manner in which this case was conducted. I know, myself, what it’s like to try to rule on evidence in a case when the attorneys are using all their political weight to get at you administratively behind closed doors. In my own situation, the case that threatened to break my back involved two elderly ladies who found petroleum products in their kitchen water one day, and several heavyweight oil company litigators on the other side of the fence. One doesn’t survive being a hearing officer in environmental cases in Chicago without knowing something about the back rooms of power. After ruling on evidence in such a way as to displease the heavyweights, I was forced to hand off the case to my own supervisor, who thought I had done fine and apologized confidentially to me for bending under the pressure of his arguably frivolous political appointee boss. (He then went on to displease the heavyweight litigators some more, and they finally consolidated and made a settlement with the ladies.)
So I think it is too bad that politics may have played a role in how this expensive case was managed. This 7 days about 6 ½ minutes. Of course, if a superior officer of the judge is not married to the prosecuting attorney in this case, I would appreciate knowing immediately, as I am simply reporting what was told to me and would be quick to delete the suggestion if it were not so.
I would be remiss if I did not attempt to share at least a quick word on hazing crimes. In Arizona, hazing is defined as “any intentional, knowing or reckless act committed by a student, whether individually or in concert with other persons, against another student, and in which both of the following apply: (a) The act was committed in connection with an initiation into, an affiliation with or the maintenance of membership in any organization that is affiliated with an educational institution. (b) The act contributes to a substantial risk of potential physical injury, mental harm or degradation or causes physical injury, mental harm or personal degradation.” Hazing laws are designed to help schools prevent such behavior, and not on how similar behavior manifests itself in the community at large. Still, it sounds too familiar to not be noticed.
Here’s John who doesn’t want to join the Winslow club. And here are the people who decided, possibly because John was not interested in getting to know them or do what they were telling him to do, that he was a good target for intentional acts designed to disorient him, cause him to panic and contribute to a substantial risk of his being hurt, both exciting themselves and endangering themselves in the process. Synonyms for hazing include shadowing, obfuscating and obscuring. Crushing someone’s nose surely meets part b, while screaming at the man to get out of his car, his only protection, certainly contributes to mental harm.
There is such a thing as prosecutorial discretion. I also can’t figure out why the prosecutor decided to prosecute this case, and in the way they did, not prosecuting the others present – for various crimes against John. We hear that the prosecuting attorney and the star witness appear to be pretty close buddies. Is that so? What is the connection between the star witness and the State? Why was this case handled like this? That’s a political question. That’s my new question.
The first is answered: who let the trial run 7 days? The judge.
|Posted on April 29, 2012 at 3:40 PM|
Here, I continue my translation of VG’s coverage of the events surrounding John Kristoffer Larsgard, and my comment.
Wednesday, April 25th:
Larsgard can appeal.
If he is judged and receives a sentence, he can go to the Arizona Court of Appeals. Here, the accused can present legal objections, the method the court case would be carried out. The sentencing and clear constitutional questions, explained criminal law attorney, Michael Harwin in Tucson, Arizona. Harwin has not assembled the Larsgard story, but the attorney understands that the judgment is considered severe.
The Poor Man
Such has his life been behind the wall
Holbrook. Overextended, must Live Larsgard, 68, yesterday see her son be hastened out of the courtroom, strongly guarded by American police.
“I don’t know so much about prisons in general in Arizona, but I unfortunately know a lot about Navajo County Jail, where he has sat until now. And it is a scary place, completely hellish. The way they have treated my son in these seven months is nearly impossible to believe,” she tells VG.
Racial conflicts and violence:
Wearing orange pants, iron handcuffs and foot chains, Larsgard was taken promptly out of the courtroom after the judgment was stated in the local courthouse last evening Norwegian time. Over-filled jails where racial conflicts, gang pressures and violence imbue daily life are believed to be what waits the Norwegian behind the walls in Arizona. Until now he has sat in Navajo County – and now will be transferred to another custodial institution in Arizona.
“Since April 4th, he has been newly sat in isolation. My son is completely sure that this is because they want it to show on his papers when he is transferred to a state prison that it has been necessary to set him in isolation. This scares us, that his custodial situation will be worsened.
How shall you get to visit him in prison?
“I have no idea. I live in Oslo. It takes between 12 and 15 hours just to fly here,” says Liv Larsgard.
“This coming up is going to be tough. The poor man,” says Thore Henki Holm Hansen, 68, to VG. The motorcycle gang the Outlaws’ European chief was imprisoned for 7 years for narcotics offenses in a prison in Miami, up until 2004. “Behind the wall, there are their own rules. My only advice to him is that he must weave himself into a group in the prison. To sail his own sea in that system is difficult,” says Hansen.
The Swede, Annika Ostberg, was sentenced to assisting in murder in 1982 and was sentenced to 28 years in prison in California. She says it was tough behind the wall in the southern States. “Prisons there are overcrowded. He must plan to be imprisoned in a room together with 50 others. To be alone is impossible, but it could help to survive,” says Ostberg to VG. “The most important rules are not to say anything, but see everything and hear everything. To be with a group is essential,” she states. “There is much violence, narcotics and sexual maltreatment in American prisons, unfortunately. Prison guards see what they want to see,” says Ostberg, who in 2009 was transferred to a Swedish prison. Hansen confirms that there is still sexual mistreatment among the prisoners. “He must find a way to form an image and get respect. It is not just a joke that one doesn’t bend over after the soap in the shower,” he says.
In Arizona, it is common that the sentenced are getting out after having served one-half their time. There are 15 prisons in the state, but it is uncertain at this writing which prison Larsgard must go to. “I’m no expert on the state of the prisons in Arizona. My impression is that they are very different from place to place. Some of them have the reputation of being very tough,” says Larsgard’s attorney, Criss Candelaria to VG.
“He is, despite necessity, to be imprisoned at least 85% of his sentence before he can come out. It is important for me now to try to hold him up mentally. He must think that he can go further. In fact, it could have been much worse today than 7 ½ years in prison,” says Candelaria.
Thomas Ugelvik at the Institute for Criminology and Judicial Sociology at the University of Oslo also brings forward overcrowded prisons in the U.S. as a huge challenge. He doesn’t think it will be easy for Larsgard to serve his sentence. “Arizona can be distinguished from Texas and California on the number of prisoners. The prisons are often very full and it is not normal that one would get one’s own cell. One is housed much tighter with the other prisoners, and, as a result, it is important who is serving time with whom. One can, for example, hang out in a prison gym room with hammocks. The quality of life that coordinates with the social services and school work is not equally available in American prisons, as it is in Norwegian ones. Often there is a private contractor that is running these institutions. This reduces the level of the prison experience, when those who run it shall make money. Here in Norway, prisons are run from the perspective of a humanitarian thought-set, and one has quite equal rights within as outside the walls. This is probably not the case in Arizona,” says Ugelvik.
Amnesty International has recently released a report which butchers the conditions in prisons in Arizona. The Norwegian State Department (UDI) indicates to VG that 7 Norwegians sat imprisoned in the U.S. as of January 1, 2012. These are for violations of the law such as murder, fraud and narcotics smuggling.
“In such a small local community, there are various standards for both police and the legal system. I have lived south in the state and driven by the place Larsgard was sentenced. This is a country [i.e. hick] town! And it is still this way in the wild West, that one has a great faith in hard lines when it comes to handling the law,” says professor and U.S. expert Ole O. Moen.
Prison in the U.S.
According to the American Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2.2 million adults sat in prison in the U.S. at the end of 2010. This amounted to approximately .7 percent of the population of adult citizens. . . . (etc.)
That ends the August 25th coverage in VG.
Reader, back to the prisoner, John. After the sentencing hearing last Tuesday (at which the man who assaulted John and broke his nose last Fall got his ‘revenge finger’ moment . . . as if that was deserved, which appears to have taken place without any reported judicial comment or, well, a citation for contempt of court? After John is taken out of the courtroom, as the story above ends, John is feeling down. (Surprise surprise.) His face seems sad, so the guards escorting him claimed. As a result, he was taken to the cell where all of his clothes were taken from him. Just a preventative measure, as he might try to commit suicide, you know. He was left naked from immediately after the sentencing hearing - until the next morning, Wednesday last week, when, unexpectedly, some journalists showed up to visit him. The guards hurried up and gave him his clothes to throw on so he could attend to their questions. They had so many of their own questions and their time together was limited. John didn’t have a chance to tell them he’d been kept stripped in solitary since the hearing.
John is scheduled to be transferred to an ‘assessment center’ very soon, where he is expected to be for 1-2 months while they determine which prison he is going to be sent to. First, it's said they will shave his head. His mother is told she cannot see him at all during this time.
|Posted on April 29, 2012 at 3:50 AM|
I am commenting on recent news in the John Kristoffer Larsgard case, held in Arizona, involving a Norwegian young man and his mother, Liv Larsgard. In this blog entry, I am reviewing VG’s coverage of the Larsgard case published in their Norwegian edition of April 25, 2012. I am also introducing information not included in the paper. The VG translation into English is mine, and I take the liberty of commenting where I find it appropriate. I apologize for any embarrassment my comments may cause to individuals, and assure you that my only interest is in investigating what has actually occurred in this situation, a situation which I find both engaging and urgent.
John Kristoffer Sentenced to Prison for 7 ½ Years
Holbrook, Arizona. Inside the courtroom, John Kristoffer Larsgard, 33, stifling sobs, gives a tearful guarantee that he never had the intent to hurt anyone. But his statement falls on deaf ears.
Gives him the finger:
This, despite the fact that the main person in the case, aside from Larsgard himself, Mike Mendoza, shows his open contempt for the accused’s attempt to beg for forgiveness. In the middle of the long solo request by Larsgard, Mendoza gets up abruptly, goes quickly toward the door at the back of the courtroom, advances, and then goes out. Then he turns himself again towards Larsgard in the open courtroom door and gives his long [fuck you] finger.
“This shows you what kind of people they are, who have gotten Larsgard into prison, who have witnessed against him, the entire time with similar declarations, always consistent with one another. They are altogether within Mendoza’s circle of friends. He has the police, the prosecuting authority, and the jury believing in him 100 percent, zero percent on Larsgard. This is what is such a scandal,” says defense attorney, Criss Candelaria to VG right after the sentencing was read out, shortly after 10 p.m. Norwegian time yesterday evening.
What got Mendoza to react was that Larsgard said that what got him to go into a full panic was that Mendoza smashed him in the face such that he broke his nose. “Had he just come calmly up to me, instead of punching me, none of us would have been sitting here today,” said Larsgard.
VG has read the police interview of Mendoza in which he confirms that he hit Larsgard in the face. “The idea was to punch him unconscious – so that the wild-man-driving he was doing would stop” was the explanation given police. VG talked to Mike Mendoza about an hour before the episode in the courtroom. “We asked for an interview, but he refused that because he had been advised to not talk with the media by the prosecution.” Similarly, none of the other witnesses have wished to talk with VG at any time.
Reader, I interrupt: The case is supposedly all over, and the prosecutor has told the witnesses not to talk to the media. Why? Is the case going to start to fall apart if they do start talking? How much careful coaching went into creating the facade they needed to convict? Perhaps it’s all a house of cards, ready to fall when the least touch pricks it. Seems suspicious to me. And it’s too bad the witnesses are all in line on this. Like little soldiers. Of course, they probably have something to lose if they talk . . . and to gain if the prosecutor’s ‘discretion’ should ever have to fall on them. You know prosecutors do have discretion as to what crimes they prosecute, and who they prosecute. No skin off this prosecutor’s back - I mean, to take on a ‘non-resident,’ and a genuine foreigner at that.
I also can’t help but wonder why the prosecutor didn’t charge Mendoza with aggravated battery, which he seems clearly chargeable for – and possibly clearly guilty of - and which is a ‘crime.
Also, Reader, if someone punched you in the nose so hard, through the driver’s side window while you were stopped and parked, and coming at you from the back of the car, not the front, so you had no clue, and then they actually broke your nose, and your blood started spurting all over the car, might you begin to drive rather erratically? At least to get away? At least until you felt you had to stop and call 911, which these Norwegians did? Back to the article:
Is in shock:
Neither the witnesses in the case nor the judge, John Lamb, showed any prayer. The judge should just find the correct sentence, since a jury had already found him guilty on several points. “I am in shock. This is horrible. I don’t know what I can do with myself, what I shall do now. That they could do something like this to my son,” says Liv Larsgard. “These witnesses have ganged up against my son and they are lying. I know that, because I was there the entire time.”
Liv came over from Norway on Sunday and has gotten to meet with her son one time before yesterday’s court session. When she, during a recess, tries to pass her son a half-bottle of Coca-Cola, it is immediately jerked out of her hands. Crushed, she realizes defeat.
The attempt by the attorney to get a new trial was denied already by the judge at the opening of the [sentencing] court session. In addition, the prosecutor came forward with a bunch of new comments in the case: They had gotten together material showing Larsgard had been in trouble earlier in the U.S., especially at the University of Alabama about 10 years ago. That was discussed by VG in the past. A large part of the time in the court session of this date was spent discussing how relevant that might be to the case at hand. The judge approved that the information could be brought into the case, despite the fact that nothing in those circumstances resulted in Larsgard either being judged or fined for something.
Reader, this is just amazing! As the coverage has already noted, John has gotten into trouble before. Is he permitted to have a history similar certainly to more than a million other young men, that is, without ending up with a jail sentence for being unliked? Perhaps a person who doesn’t fit into the social circle that he is supposed to fit into? Who is intelligent as can be, and ends up deciding he doesn’t care if folks don’t like him – he’ll live his life as he sees fit, and he doesn’t hurt anyone while he does it.
What stories about him from his past - of being mobbed and harassed, or responding poorly to some people – what they do, for me, is just confirm that people who are looking for someone to mob and harass will often decide that it is him that should ‘get it.’ It is the Lord of the Flies. I, too, respond pretty poorly to victimization. I start yelling. I get angry. I try to make room for myself to get out of it. And you? And what does that have to do with the case which is now already over and whose record should be closed?
As long as we are bringing up prejudicial and inflammatory information, what about Mendoza? A source tells us that he sells cigarettes. And equipment. What kind? The kind used to make methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug subject to high rates of abuse, prevalent on the underground drug market, a drug responsible for destroying lives, health, families and communities. Maybe you can also make baby food with methamphetamine equipment. I have no idea. Just telling you what I heard.
Back to VG:
Larsgard’s strongest supporter here in Arizona, Sandy Curry, 68, who has become a close friend to the mother, Liv, said that, despite developments, she was relieved after the sentencing hearing. “The reason that I am a bit happy is that I unfortunately know what these people could have found him for [sentenced him to]. That he got 7 ½ years, minus the 230 days he has sat in prison detained, is therefore a relief. Of course I think, as I have thought the entire time, that this case was idiocy from one end to the other, that it never should have been brought. He should have gotten a fine for irresponsible driving in Winslow, and then the police ‘wave him on,’ said Sandy Curry to VG.
Reader, I can’t stop interrupting. The police did not wave goodbye. Why was that? Because they were Iranian terrorists. Yep. I turn to Liv. “We parked and made phone calls to Dalton Auto to try to find them and get our luggage. He said ‘Stay where you are, I’ll send a driver to find you and take you to your luggage.” John was then smashed in the face through the car window by Mendoza.” Liv continues, “After he was hit, he started the car and tried to find some street signs, but we had to stop and call 911. A few seconds after calling 911, we heard screaming and noise, which was the police. They came at us with their guns pointed at our heads.”
According to Liv, the police dragged her out of the car, twisting her arm and virtually threw her into the back of a police van, locking it. In the car were her handbag/purse and several mobile phones. She had her Norwegian mobile phone with her, and had bought a U.S. mobile phone. Her Norwegian passport was also in her purse in the car.
We must now go back to 2009. That year, John had developed a uniquely difficult cervical injury. His neck required special surgery. In Norway, he could not get that surgery quickly, and so, like many Norwegians, he considered obtaining the surgery out-of-country for reasons related to price and speed of scheduling. Liv and he were in Norway and researched the options. They discovered that one of the world’s best surgeons for the needed surgery was Dr. Muntazen who would be in Germany the following year, but was currently working in Iran. Since they did not feel they could wait, they scheduled with Dr. Muntazen in Iran, and proceeded to make their travel arrangements. Norwegians travel to Iran for cultural reasons, to see their ancient sites and experience the culture on vacation. A visa stamp is required. Liv’s co-workers noted that the ladies at the Iranian Embassy wore head scarves. They thought she might take one with her when she went to get her visa stamped into her passport. Thinking it would be wise, Liv completed her application and got her photo taken at the photo box machine. She decided it would be respectful to wear the scarf in her visa photo so she did. The visa was processed when she went to the Iranian Embassy in Oslo. Liv and John then took their trip to Iran, where John got the fantastic surgery which immediately improved his neck. The visa lasted for 2-3 weeks and they were there for about one week. The visa stamp usually takes up a full page in a passport, and sometimes includes a photo. In this case, it did.
Liv is locked in the back of the van while the police have searched her handbag, something which was not related to the circumstances of the incidents which have just occurred and which should have resulted in any evidence, even if it was considered germane, being excluded from the record. After being locked in the van for about 10 minutes, a policeman opens the door and literally screams at Liv, at the top of his lungs, “You are from Iran! You are Iranian and you are a terrorist!” Liv replied, “No, I’m Norwegian.” The police officer answers, “No, you’re Iranian. Because I have your passport.” By the way, Liv did not have an Iranian passport. Her belongings, though, were searched without her permission and without probable cause to suspect that she had any reason to be involved in a crime. In criminal procedure, as most criminals know, there is something called the exclusionary rule. It means one cannot place into evidence items that were obtained by illegal search and seizure. It is designed to act as a deterrent to overzealous police and prosecutorial discretion. While items of a third party can be used in one exception to the rule, (example, germane evidence from someone else, a third party, in the case of the first party), in general, both John and Liv were in the position of foreigners who had crossed into American borders (legally) and had the right to the protection of this rule.
The police did not speak to her further. She requested her handbag and phones and was told that she could not have them. According to Liv, they said, “We are going to keep everything as evidence and you can have nothing.” She was especially anxious as she expected another call from the people who were supposed to help them get their luggage, or else should call them back again. Little did she know how much deeper their tragedy had become.
Only some days after this incident, the cab driver who assisted them in getting to Flagstaff to rent a car to continue their journey on that fateful day was talking to a policeman she knew. He mentioned to her that he had heard about the Iranian terrorist. So, the word had gotten around.
By October 19th, it was time to see what the documents from the police looked like. The attorney had been selected for John, and his wife had come to Winslow to pick up some papers that were to be used in the case. It seems that the documents were faxed to Winslow and picked up there, at which time Liv had a chance to see them. Among the case documents was a page with, yes, a copy of the Iranian visa page from Liv’s passport showing Liv in her head scarf. This apparently constituted a part of the record of the investigation in the case on which the charges against John would be brought.
Months and months go by. During the several days of trial, Liv was told she should not attend in the courtroom, as it might be perceived that her own testimony would thus be contrived or changed. However, Liv was assured that the Iranian terrorist was not discussed in court. Heaven forbid. Besides, the story was already all over the area. Seems no one in this part of the State had seen an Iranian visa stamp before. The more disturbing question is how many people involved in the case and jury had heard of that terrorist connection. After all, like mother like son, right?