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Another Bad Apple – This Time In Williamson County

Williamson County Deputy Richard “Monty” Cline was prepared to testify against 37-year-old Anna Berry at a felony drunken driving trial when Berry’s lawyer discovered that Cline had something in common with his client: at least two misdemeanor convictions, one for drunken driving.

The news heralded the downward spiral of Cline’s credibility and prosecutors’ case against Berry, who could have gotten 10 years in prison.

In a deal with prosecutors, Berry pleaded no contest Thursday to obstructing a passageway, a Class B misdemeanor. She received one year deferred adjudication, a type of probation.

Cline is on paid leave from the sheriff’s department pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Revelations about his background raise questions about law enforcement hiring standards and whether other officers have pasts that can’t withstand scrutiny in a courtroom.
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Watch out for TABC

Bartenders won’t be the only ones watching what you drink. It’s part of TABC’s “SIPS” effort or Sales to Intoxicated Persons Stings.

It will be happening on Sixth Street and all around Austin.

“Don’t be surprised if the guy in the Hawaiian shirt sitting next you is a TABC agent kind of watching,” Lt. Robert Saenz with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission said.

“What APD has done for us is not only given us top bars but the nights of the week when arrests have been made,” Saenz said.

They call it the Top 30 list. That’s where they’re focusing their efforts to catch folks who have had too much to drink and the folks selling it to them.

“We understand it’s a difficult venture. We understand it’s an unpopular venture that we’re taking on here, but it’s something that needs to be done,” Saenz said.

Bars aren’t the only place you’ll find undercover TABC officers these days.

They’ll also be at the Austin City Limits Music Festival all this weekend.

Click here for the full story as reported on the KXAN website

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Another Bad Apple on the Austin Police Department

A former Austin police detective pleaded guilty to seven counts of child pornography in federal court Thursday, admitting that he possessed on his personal computer hundreds of pornographic images of children.

Lance McConnell, 34, faces five to 120 years in federal prison and up to $1.75 million in fines when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks. The sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 18.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton called Thursday a “sad day for Austin because we now know that one who was sworn to protect and serve the innocent instead committed a terrible crime.”

McConnell was on the Austin police force for seven years before he was fired in May after a federal grand jury handed up the indictment against him. He was assigned to investigate illegal alcohol sales.

Investigators with the Texas attorney general’s office began to investigate McConnell after they received a tip from America Online officials that a subscriber had attempted last year to send e-mails with child pornography images attached, court documents show.

McConnell pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing child pornography, three counts of receiving child pornography and two counts of transporting child pornography.

Click here for the full story in the Austin American Statesman

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The Sheriff’s Department had a busy weekend

The Travis County Sheriff’s Office calls a recent crackdown on drunk driving “a success.”

From Aug. 19 to Sept. 5, deputies made 43 DWI arrests, compared to 38 DWI’s in the entire month of May. That’s the last month the sheriff’s office has stats for.

A $25,000 grant from the national “You Drink, You Drive, You Lose” program funded the crackdown.

Click here for the full story on News 8′s website

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Fewer people dying in alcohol-related crashes

Compared to just two years ago, fewer people are dying on Texas roads in alcohol-related crashes. Those statistics come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Drunk driving fatalities are down. Between 2003 and 2004, alcohol-related traffic deaths fell by 7.3 percent – which translates to 129 fewer fatalities. When you add that to the six percent between 2002 and 2003, alcohol related traffic fatalities have fallen by 13 percent,” said Carlos Lopez, Texas Department of Transportation.

Despite the decrease, Texas still leads the country in the number of traffic fatalities.

In Travis County, the drop was even more significant. In 2002, 19 cases were filed for intoxication manslaughter. In 2004, 9 cases were filed for intoxication manslaughter. Law enforcement officials attribute much of the drop in those numbers to enforcement.

Click here for the full story on the KVUE website

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Police are going to be out in force this weekend!

The Police Department is stepping up its efforts to prevent drunken driving this weekend in the downtown entertainment district as the return of University of Texas students, Longhorn football and the holiday attracts more people.

After finding that nine of the past 10 fatal crashes in Austin involved drug or alcohol impairment by the driver, the department decided to launch “Operation Summer’s End.”

Starting this weekend, specialized police units — including the mobile alcohol Breathalyzer and the Air One traffic helicopter — will team up with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission to target aggressive driving and underage drinking.

By raising awareness of the crackdown on drunken driving, police hope for more compliance from people who are out and about this weekend, he said. “Alcohol and aggressive driving add up to people getting hurt, and we don’t want that,” said Lt. Kenneth Cannaday.

Click here for the full story in the Austin American Statesman

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Do Smokers Drink More?…..We Shall See.

As smoking ban becomes law, bar owners cope

At 11:58 p.m. Wednesday at the Dizzy Rooster, Brian Short took a long drag on a Camel, his last legal one in an Austin bar.

“I’m exercising my rights while I still can,” the 30-year-old drummer with Dorkstar said.
Austin’s smoking ban, passed in May by 51.8 percent of voters, got its official, if rocky, start at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

At least one bar owner said he would not enforce the ban until pressed by the city. Another bar owner, vowing to enforce the ordinance to its hilt, phoned 911 to report a smoker.

“A lot of people are getting in their last smokes,” said Jessica Davoust, a bartender at the Dizzy Rooster.

Nearby on Sixth Street, a sign outside the Mooseknuckle Pub urged patrons to “Smoke ‘Em While Got ‘Em!!!”

But owner David Snowberger said he had not received official word from the city about how to enforce the ban and would not until he had been given instructions.

The prospect last spring of the smoking ban had unified some bar owners, who complained that it would lead to a devastating downturn in business. They argued the city should not prosecute proprietors for an offense committed by a patron.

Early Thursday, they coped with enforcing the ban.

Randall Stockton, who owns Beerland on Red River Street and who had campaigned against the ban, called 911 shortly after midnight to report a customer who did not extinguish a cigarette.

“These are my valued customers,” he said. “At 11:58, I’m friends with them, and then a couple of minutes later I’m calling the cops.”

One person by the bar said the call was excessive.

The ban became the subject of downtown regulars and employees at the stroke of midnight.

“Ownership should regulate the place,” said Alpha Ball, who mans the door at Plush, where ashtrays had been removed just before midnight, on Red River Street. “Why would they have laws for your own property?”

Click here for the full story in the Austin American Statesman.

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