Category Archives: StopChildAbuse

Michigan Woman Should Have Drawn Life Sentence

.jpg photo of woman sentenced to prison for child abuse
Mary Burkemo will spend five to 20 years in prison.

Woman Sentenced to Prison for Child Abuse

Cadillac, MI  –  The woman who allowed one of her underage family members to have a sexual relationship with a registered sex offender is heading to prison.

Mary Burkemo will spend five to 20 years in prison.

She admitted to child abusive activity and third-degree child abuse.

In exchange, charges like second-degree child abuse were dropped.

Burkemo was dating Kyle Donkers, a registered sex offender who was on parole for a previous sex crime conviction.

Donkers became obsessed with a relative of Burkemo’s.

He is currently serving 13 to 20 in prison for child abusive activity. 

TX State And County “Posse” Roundup And Put Away Sex Trafficker

.jpg photo of Texas Attorney General Office Logo
Texas Attorney General’s Office Logo

AG’s Office, Jefferson County DA Bob Wortham Obtain Conviction, 60-Year Prison Sentence in Sex Trafficking Case Involving Women and Underage Victims

AUSTIN, TX  –  As a result of a joint effort by his office and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that a jury found Johnny Ray Matlock guilty on charges of continuous trafficking of persons, a first-degree felony.  Matlock waived his right to appeal and accepted a 60-year prison sentence, which is the equivalent of a life sentence in Texas.

 Attorney General Paxton’s Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime section, led by Deputy Criminal Chief Kirsta Melton, was invited by District Attorney Wortham to partner with his office on Jefferson County’s first human trafficking case.  Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Pipkin worked with Melton on the trial.

“This collaboration between my office and the district attorney’s office in Jefferson County is an outstanding example of how we’re fighting to ensure that justice is served upon those who commit the despicable crime of sex trafficking,” Attorney General Paxton said.  “I want to thank the prosecutors and law enforcement agents for their efforts on this investigation to put away a despicable human trafficker.”

Last March, a grand jury indicted Matlock, of Silsbee, on charges he used social media and apps to recruit two underage girls and two women, causing them to be victims of sex trafficking.  In court today, Matlock also agreed to plead guilty to a felony charge of possession of a firearm.  A 10-year sentence for that will run concurrently with his sentence on human trafficking.

In July, a joint effort by the attorney general’s human trafficking unit, the Travis County District Attorney’s office and the Texas Department of Public Safety culminated in a 40-year prison sentence for the trafficker of a 14-year-old girl.

Attorney General Paxton has made combating human trafficking a top priority.  Two years ago, he launched his office’s Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime section, which prosecutes human traffickers across the state.  In April, the section’s prosecution of Backpage.com resulted in the company pleading guilty to human trafficking in Texas and its CEO, Carl Ferrer, pleading guilty to money laundering.  The attorney general’s office also assisted the U.S. Department of Justice with permanently shutting down the website, which was considered the largest online sex trafficking marketplace in the world.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Paxton unveiled a powerful training video to teach Texans how to spot and report suspected human trafficking activity. “Be the One in the Fight Against Human Trafficking” is available for viewing online at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/initiatives/human-trafficking

We Want Net Neutrality

.jpg photo of Firefighter in California
A firefighter battling the Medocino Complex fire on August 7, 2018 near Lodoga, California.

Verizon throttled fire department’s
“unlimited” data during California wildfire

“Fire department had to pay twice as much to lift throttling during wildfire response.”

Update:  The Santa Clara fire department has responded to Verizon’s claim that the throttling was just a customer service error and “has nothing to do with net neutrality.”  To the contrary, “Verizon’s throttling has everything to do with net neutrality,” a county official said.

Verizon Wireless’ throttling of a fire department that uses its data services has been submitted as evidence in a lawsuit that seeks to reinstate federal net neutrality rules.

“County Fire has experienced throttling by its ISP, Verizon,” Santa Clara County Fire Chief Anthony Bowden wrote in a declaration.  “This throttling has had a significant impact on our ability to provide emergency services.  Verizon imposed these limitations despite being informed that throttling was actively impeding County Fire’s ability to provide crisis-response and essential emergency services.”

Bowden’s declaration was submitted in an addendum to a brief filed by 22 state attorneys general, the District of Columbia, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara County Central Fire Protection District, and the California Public Utilities Commission.  The government agencies are seeking to overturn the recent repeal of net neutrality rules in a lawsuit they filed against the Federal Communications Commission in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Throttling affected response to wildfire

“The Internet has become an essential tool in providing fire and emergency response, particularly for events like large fires which require the rapid deployment and organization of thousands of personnel and hundreds of fire engines, aircraft, and bulldozers,” Bowden wrote.

Santa Clara Fire paid Verizon for “unlimited” data but suffered from heavy throttling until the department paid Verizon more, according to Bowden’s declaration and emails between the fire department and Verizon that were submitted as evidence.

The throttling recently affected “OES 5262,” a fire department vehicle that is “deployed to large incidents as a command and control resource” and is used to “track, organize, and prioritize routing of resources from around the state and country to the sites where they are most needed,” Bowden wrote.

“OES 5262 also coordinates all local government resources deployed to the Mendocino Complex Fire,” an ongoing wildfire that is the largest in California’s history, Bowden wrote.

The vehicle has a device that uses a Verizon SIM card for Internet access.

“In the midst of our response to the Mendocino Complex Fire, County Fire discovered the data connection for OES 5262 was being throttled by Verizon, and data rates had been reduced to 1/200, or less, than the previous speeds,” Bowden wrote.  “These reduced speeds severely interfered with the OES 5262’s ability to function effectively.  My Information Technology staff communicated directly with Verizon via email about the throttling, requesting it be immediately lifted for public safety purposes.”

Verizon did not immediately restore full speeds to the device, however.

 “Verizon representatives confirmed the throttling, but rather than restoring us to an essential data transfer speed, they indicated that County Fire would have to switch to a new data plan at more than twice the cost, and they would only remove throttling after we contacted the Department that handles billing and switched to the new data plan,” Bowden wrote.

Verizon “risking harm to public safety”

Because the throttling continued until the department was able to upgrade its subscription, “County Fire personnel were forced to use other agencies’ Internet Service Providers and their own personal devices to provide the necessary connectivity and data transfer capability required by OES 5262,” Bowden wrote.

Verizon throttling also affected the department in a response to previous fires in December and June, emails show.

Bowden argued that Verizon is likely to keep taking advantage of emergencies in order to push public safety agencies onto more expensive plans.

“In light of our experience, County Fire believes it is likely that Verizon will continue to use the exigent nature of public safety emergencies and catastrophic events to coerce public agencies into higher-cost plans, ultimately paying significantly more for mission-critical service—even if that means risking harm to public safety during negotiations,” Bowden wrote.

Update:  In a statement to Ars three hours after this article was published, Verizon acknowledged that it shouldn’t have continued throttling the fire department’s data service after the department asked Verizon to lift the throttling restrictions.

“Regardless of the plan emergency responders choose, we have a practice to remove data speed restrictions when contacted in emergency situations,” Verizon’s statement said.  “We have done that many times, including for emergency personnel responding to these tragic fires.  In this situation, we should have lifted the speed restriction when our customer reached out to us.  This was a customer support mistake.  We are reviewing the situation and will fix any issues going forward.”

Verizon also noted that the fire department purchased a data service plan that is slowed down after a data usage threshold is reached.  But Verizon said it “made a mistake” in communicating with the department about the terms of the plan.

“We made a mistake in how we communicated with our customer about the terms of its plan,” Verizon said.  “Like all customers, fire departments choose service plans that are best for them.  This customer purchased a government contract plan for a high-speed wireless data allotment at a set monthly cost.  Under this plan, users get an unlimited amount of data but speeds are reduced when they exceed their allotment until the next billing cycle.”

Verizon also said that the Santa Clara “situation has nothing to do with net neutrality or the current proceeding in court.”

Throttling happened after net neutrality repeal

Verizon’s throttling was described in fire department emails beginning June 29 of this year, just weeks after the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules took effect.

Even when net neutrality rules were in place, all major carriers imposed some form of throttling on unlimited plans when customers used more than a certain amount of data.  They argued that it was allowed under the rules’ exception for “reasonable network management.”  But while such throttling is generally applied only during times of network congestion, the Santa Clara Fire Department says it was throttled at all times once the device in question went over a 25GB monthly threshold.

Even if Verizon’s throttling didn’t technically violate the no-throttling rule, Santa Clara could have complained to the FCC under the now-removed net neutrality system, which allowed Internet users to file complaints about any unjust or unreasonable prices and practices.  FCC Chairman Ajit   decision to deregulate the broadband industry eliminated that complaint option and also limited consumers’ rights to sue Internet providers over unjust or unreasonable behavior.

Emails between fire department and Verizon

On June 29, Fire Captain Justin Stockman wrote an email to Verizon, noting that download speeds for an essential device used during large disasters had been throttled from 50Mbps to about 30kbps.

A Verizon government accounts manager named Silas Buss responded, saying that the fire department would have to move from a $37.99 plan to a $39.99 plan “to get the data speeds restored on this device.”  Later, Buss suggested that the department switch to a plan that cost at least $99.99 a month.

Stockman didn’t have authority to upgrade the plan, so he sent an email to Deputy Chief Steve Prziborowski that same day.  Stockman wrote:

Verizon is currently throttling OES 5262 so severely that it’s hampering operations for the assigned crew.  This is not the first time we have had this issue.  In December of 2017 while deployed to the Prado Mobilization Center supporting a series of large wildfires, we had the same device with the same SIM card also throttled.  I was able to work through [Fire Department IT executive] Eric Prosser at the time to have service to the device restored, and Eric communicated that Verizon had properly re-categorized the device as truly “unlimited”.

Prziborowski expressed concern about the throttling in an email to Buss.  “Before I give you my approval to do the $2.00 a month upgrade, the bigger question is why our public safety data usage is getting throttled down?”  Prziborowski wrote. “Our understanding from Eric Prosser, our former Information Technology Officer, was that he had received approval from Verizon that public safety should never be gated down because of our critical infrastructure need for these devices.”

While fire department personnel thought they were already paying for “truly” unlimited data, Verizon said they weren’t.

“The short of it is, public safety customers have access to plans that do not have data throughput limitations,” Buss told Prziborowski.  “However, the current plan set for all of SCCFD’s lines does have data throttling limitations.  We will need to talk about making some plan changes to all lines or a selection of lines to address the data throttling limitation of the current plan.”

The emails started up again on July 5 and 6.  “Can confirm that after using 25GB of data, our service drops to zero.  This is unacceptable and needs to be fixed,” fire department IT officer Daniel Farrelly wrote.

Buss clarified that “data throughput is limited to 200kbps or 600kbps” after 25GB of use.  Buss also told fire officials that all Verizon plans have some sort of throttling and that the department would have to pay by the gigabyte to avoid throttling entirely.

Buss wrote:

Verizon has always reserved the right to limit data throughput on unlimited plans. All unlimited data plans offered by Verizon have some sort of data throttling built-in, including the $39.99 plan.  Verizon does offer plans with no data throughput limitations;  these plans require that the customer pay by the GB for use beyond a certain set allotment.

The Mendocino fire began on July 27.  On the night of Sunday, July 29, Stockman sent an email to Bowden:

OES 5262 is deployed again, now to the Mendocino Complex, and is still experiencing the same throttling.  As I understood it from our previous exchange regarding this device, the billing cycle was set to end July 23, which should have alleviated the throttling.  In a side-by-side comparison, a crew member’s personal phone using Verizon was seeing speeds of 20Mbps/7Mbps.  The department Verizon device is experiencing speeds of 0.2Mbps/0.6Mbps, meaning it has no meaningful functionality.

Farrelly wrote a brief email to Buss that night, telling him to “Remove any data throttling on OES5262 effective immediately.”  Farrelly emailed Buss again the next morning, saying, “Please work with us.  All we need is a plan that does not offer throttling or caps of any kind.”

Buss responded that afternoon, suggesting a plan that costs $99.99 for the first 20GB and $8 per gigabyte thereafter.  “To get the plan changed immediately, I would suggest calling in the plan change to our customer service team,” Buss wrote.

That was the last email submitted in the court exhibit.

Santa Clara apparently switched to the $99.99 plan, more than doubling its bill. “While Verizon ultimately did lift the throttling, it was only after County Fire subscribed to a new, more expensive plan,” Bowden wrote in his declaration.

Gun Not Charged Missing Knife Hitting Father

.jpg photo of father shot while stabbing son
Blair Ness, 27

Father charged with capital murder after
stabbing toddler in Lewisville, police say

DALLAS, TX  –  A father accused of slamming his toddler son on the sidewalk and stabbing him in a deadly attack has been charged with capital murder, Lewisville police said.

Blair Ness, 27, was released from the hospital Tuesday and booked into the Lewisville city jail after the attack that killed his son, 16-month-old Ashton Ness, Sunday in a courtyard at Oak Forest Apartments in Lewisville.  Bail is set at $1.5 million.

As Ness, who was shot by a neighbor trying to stop the attack, was being handcuffed Sunday, he asked police to contact his mother and girlfriend.  He told officers, “I know everyone’s mad, I’m mad.  I killed my son,” according to an affidavit for his arrest.

A forensic investigator found stab wounds “all over” the boy’s head and body, police records say.

Police said evidence indicates that Ness’ attack on the toddler began inside the apartment he shared with his son and girlfriend, who was at work when the boy was killed.  Officers found a large blood stain on the carpet in the master bedroom, a blood-stained folding knife and skull fragments near the bedroom door, the affidavit states.  The apartment was smoky and smelled of marijuana, police said.

A trail of blood led outside to the scene of the attack, where officers saw several bloody kitchen knives in the grass next to a pool of blood.

When police interviewed the boy’s mother and Ness’s girlfriend, Alexandra Murphy, she said she couldn’t think of any reason why Ness would want to harm their son, the affidavit said.  He had been reading the Bible a lot and they had been attending church lately, she told police.  When she left the apartment Sunday to go to work, Ness was feeding their son.

In a statement, Ness’s family asked to be left alone to mourn Ashton.

“The shock of this vicious act will forever affect anyone that is close to this horror that happened on August 19th.  We thank you for all the support, space and kindness during this time.  We love you Ashton and we will always remember your beautiful smile and laughter,” the statement read.

The family’s statement said Ness “left this earth sometime in the last few weeks as he opened a door to allow demons to enter into his body.”

Ness did not have a criminal history in Dallas, Denton, Collin or Tarrant counties, according to court records.

In 2013, he entered a guilty plea in New Mexico on charges of aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and kidnapping of a victim younger than 18.  He pleaded guilty but was placed on deferred adjudication probation, court records indicate. The charges were dismissed in 2018 when he completed the probation program.

Ness was arrested March 23, 2013, after an overnight standoff with a SWAT team in Los Lunas, N.M., according to KOAT-TV.  Police were called to his home after a woman told dispatchers she had been sexually assaulted, and Ness refused to come out for six hours until police fired pepper spray inside, the station reported.

It is unclear whether Ness has an attorney yet.

Just days before the attack, Ness posted a picture on Facebook of the young family and expressed his devotion to them and Jesus.

“The start of something beautiful!” he wrote.  “I love my family, man do we have a strong bond, let’s all stand strong in jesus christ cause it’s so much better than magic.”

Ness was treated for a hand injury, likely from the knife used in the attack, and a gunshot wound to the leg, police said.  Toxicology tests are pending.

Friends will hold a public candlelight vigil Thursday for 16-month-old Ashton Ness. The event will be at 7:30 p.m. at Wayne Ferguson Plaza on Church Street in Lewisville.

Family set up a GoFundMe campaign to help Ashton’s mother with funeral expenses.
A description for the fundraiser said Ashton “lit up a room when he entered it,” and had “the cutest dimples you ever saw.”

The fundraiser had surpassed its goal of $15,000 on Tuesday.

Several neighbors at the sprawling Oak Forest Apartments complex, along State Highway 121 Business just west of Interstate 35E, saw and heard Sunday’s attack in the courtyard.

Neighbors say Ashton’s father came out of his apartment ranting and raving as he carried a child in his arms who wasn’t moving.

Nine frantic neighbors, including the girlfriend of the neighbor who shot at the father, called 911 during the attack, according to recordings released by the city. Each told dispatchers there was a man stabbing his son in the apartment courtyard.

One man told the dispatcher: “They slammed the little kid on the ground.  They’re stabbing their baby out here in the middle…”

“They’re stabbing their baby?” the dispatcher asked.

“They’re stabbing the baby right now in the middle of the complex, right now,” he said.

Another caller told a dispatcher, “There’s blood everywhere.”

“I think the dad killed him,” she said.  The woman then told the dispatcher she heard two or three gunshots.

“Shots just went off,” she said.

Neither the police nor Child Protective Services had been previously called to the boy’s home in Lewisville, Capt. Jesse Hunter said at the scene Sunday.

Gun Tries Shooting Knife Attacking Toddler

.jpg photo of toddler killed by father north of Dallas Texas
Ashton Ness, 16-months-old.

Witness who shot father stabbing toddler fired on him from second-floor balcony

LEWISVILLE, TX  –  The Good Samaritan who shot a man who was stabbing his toddler son on Sunday afternoon fired his weapon from the second-floor balcony of his apartment, Lewisville police said.

Cellphone video of man Good Samaritan shot trying to save toddler.

“Time did not allow for him to come down to the ground level; he retrieved his firearm and shot the suspect from that elevated position,” Capt. Mike Lane said on Monday morning.  “It was a handgun. … It was a citizen that was able to stop the attack, very fortunate.”

The attack began just before 1 p.m. Sunday at Oak Forest Apartments at 1531 S. State Highway 121 Business.  The large, gated community showed no signs of the incident the next morning.

Lane said the suspect went into a courtyard at the complex and stabbed his 16-month-old son numerous times.  The child later died.  The father also had wounds on his hand from a knife, Lane said.

The man who intervened from the second-floor balcony shot the suspect in his leg, Lane said.

Police Capt. Jesse Hunter said Sunday, “That was what effectively ended the assault on the child.”

Video shot by a neighbor on a cellphone shows the suspect, in a black T-shirt and white shorts without any shoes on, handcuffed and being dragged away from the courtyard by several officers.

“Look they’re locking me away mom,” the suspect says in the video.  “I just want to see my mom, all right.”

He loses his footing briefly and police help him up before he begins to yell again.

“In the black truck!  Look,” the suspect said in the video.

The shooter will not be criminally charged, police said.

The suspect’s name is not being released, pending his arrest.  He’s in the hospital receiving treatment.  It’s unknown how long that will take, Lane said.

The child was identified by the Tarrant County Medical Examiners office as Ashton Ness.

Lane said there were several witnesses to the attack and it was reported that the man had been yelling — “possibly some religious yells.”

There had not been any previous calls or reports to police at the apartment, Lane said.  Nor had there been prior reports by the child’s family involving Child Protective Services, he said.

The mother of the child was at work at the time of the stabbing, Lane said.

Brandi Flores, manager of the apartment complex, said they are saddened by the event.  She said it was an isolated incident and couldn’t comment further.