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On the Assassination of Colorado Corrections Chief Clements

Video of Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper discussing the assassination of Tom Clements

Tom Clements 1955-2013
Tom Clements

Yesterday Tom Clements, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections and a 32 year veteran of public service in the corrections area was assassinated at his home by an unknown party. This is sadly reminiscent of the attack on South Carolina Department of Corrections Captain Robert Johnson in March 2010 which is now known to have been ordered over an illicit cellphone operated in a prison.

(Capt. Johnson is now suing 20 cellular industry firms on the issue of whether they were aware of the illicit calls from the prison where he worked but chose instead “to facilitate this illegal activity.” The firms being sued are American Towers, LLC; Farmer Telephone Cooperative Inc.; Cellco Telephone Co. of the Southeast, LLC; Cellco Partnership d/b/a Verizon Wireless; Sprint Cellular Co. of South Carolina; Sprint Communications Co., L.P.; Alltel Communications, LLC; Alltel Communications, Inc.; Alltel Mobile Communications of South Carolina Inc.; T-Mobile USA Tower LLC; T-Mobile USA Inc.; ATT&T Inc.; AT&T Mobility LLC; Verizon Wireless, LLC; Verizon Wireless Service LLC; Verizon Wireless of the East, L.P.; and Tracfone Wireless, Inc.)

I recall a meeting among FCC staffers maybe a decade ago where a colleague, who has since left FCC, wondered why a manager in another part of FCC was so upset about something she said. She commented that “all we do is economic regulations” so it wasn’t “worth getting emotional about”. Well, much of what FCC does is probably “economic regulation” like local zoning and in some way determines who gets more money than another party. But Section 1 of the Communications Act also charges FCC to deal with “promoting safety of life and property through the use of wire and radio communications” and some FCC actions have life and death consequences.

It is too soon to tell for sure if the Clements assassination was connected with illicit cell phone use, but if I was Mitt Romney I would bet $10,000 that it was.

FCC now has in its “inbox” at least 3 petitions dealing with the cellphone in prisons issue that it has not acted on:

FCC’s petition black hole

black ho;le

  • CTIA’s November 2007 petition (Part of this petition not related to prisons was finally addressed in Docket 10-4, but the prison related issues have never been even put out for public comment)

  • GTL July 2011 petition - This petition has disappeared into FCC’s petition “black hole” and is not available on the FCC’s voluminous website which promises “transparency”. However, GTL has provided us with a copy so we can make it available here. (MSS contributed to the drafting of this petition as well as the South Carolina petition. However, no present MSS clients are involved in this issue.)

Chairman Genachowski, these petitions come from a variety of parties - including a major trade association, state governments and a small company - and advocate a variety of actions - some of which are mutually inconsistent.

Isn’t it time to
act on this urgent public safety issue and clarify FCC policy by dealing with these petitions one way or another?


No proof yet that this event was cellphone related, but it apparently also occurred to ABC News which posted a story entitled “Prison Chief's Death Highlights Safety Concerns” Here is a section:

Correctional professionals interviewed in the aftermath of the Colorado shooting say the growing influence of prison gangs, their ability to communicate with affiliates on the outside through smuggled cellphones and the ease with which people can be found and tracked online have made the job even more dangerous for them and their families.”

CTIA, why don’t we agree to both ask FCC to act one way or other on these pending petitions, including one of yours, that are gathering dust as people die.


Here is the new story about the murder of 2 prosecutors in 2 months in a rural county of Texas. District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia were found murdered at their home on March 30. Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was killed on his way to work in January. Note that the McLelland case MO was they same as in the Clements case and the Johnson case. That does not prove that illicit cellphone use was a factor, but if I was Mitt Romney …

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