On April 12, 2015, Freddie Gray was arrested in Baltimore. He was placed unsecured in a police van and was unresponsive when it reached the jail. Freddie was taken to the hospital where he died on April 19, 2015. The coroner’s report found that Freddie suffered a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged 6 officers in the death of Freddie Gray. Pre-trial activity has included numerous motions filed by defense attorneys. The first of the officers to stand trial is William Porter. Jury selection began today. Porter is charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and assault.
Folks, this looks as if jury selection is going to be a long process, although Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams said that the trial would be over by December 17th. Read the rest of this entry
It’s not what Laquan did or did not do. Rather, it is what the Chicago Police Department did after officer Jason Van Dyke killed Laquan.
Brandon Smith’s introduction on The Guardian, says that he is a Chicago-based independent journalist who, with the help of whistleblowers and the Freedom of Information Act, has reported on civil rights abuses, privatization of public assets, digital privacy concerns and pollution of land and water.”
“Independent journalist.” I like that title because it reflects a form of journalism that has almost gone the way of the dinosaur. It would be correct to replace “independent” with “investigative” in this matter, because what Brandon Smith did goes beyond reporting. Without the backing of a publication to finance his endeavors, Brandon Smith did not have to proceed at his own costs. Brandon worked along with another independent journalist, Jamie Kalven, and University of Chicago law professor Craig Futterman. Because they are independent journalists, they aren’t often issued press credentials to attend press conferences and such. In fact, he was not allowed to attend the press conference that discussed the release of video that came about due to his persistence and good work.
Had they not been independent and determined, we would not have the video of the killing of Laquan McDonald. Without the release of the video, Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke would still be on paid desk duty; and his fictionalized report of what happened would be business as usual in cover-ups.
Kalven filed the Freedom of Information request for the video. The City declined his request. Brandon’s battle for release of the video began in May, 2015. In an article published in The Chicago Reader on August 7, 2015, Brandon wrote:
“But I’m not taking no for an answer—particularly in light of Kalven v. Chicago, an Illinois Appellate Court decision last March that established information about police misconduct is public, except in limited circumstances that don’t apply in the case of the McDonald shooting video.”
A Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone. The following is a reblog from last year. I won’t have much time for blogging until after the holiday. Please be safe, enjoy yourself and the love of your family and friends, and whatever path you walk, I hope you enjoy Racer’s songs.
Racerrodig is a precious, consistent supporter of Blackbutterfly7. I call him “Racer.” Through the years, he has shared his profound wisdom and great humor with us. Racer has often spoken about playing music, and several months ago he informed us that he started a praise and worship band with his son. They have been invited to perform in other countries.
Racer entrusted me with three of his band’s original songs to see if I could present them in a format so others can listen to them. So, I put them on video. The first video has some glitches, and I ask that you don’t allow that to distract from the beauty and talent of Racer’s song.
It wasn’t feeling like Thanksgiving to me this year. With so much trouble in America, I had gotten down. Racer’s songs picked me up and I hope they do the same for you. As well, it is such a pleasure to hear his voice. Read the rest of this entry
The jury was selected. Opening statements were scheduled for this morning. However, the City of Fullerton, California reached a settlement, agreeing to pay $4.9 million in the wrongful death lawsuit.
On July 5, 2011, 37-year old Kelly Thomas was living on the streets of Fullerton. Kelly was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
“On July 5, 2011, at about 8:30 PM, officers of the Fullerton Police Department responded to a call from the management of the Slidebar that someone was vandalizing cars near the Fullerton Transportation Center. While investigating, they encountered the shirtless and disheveled Thomas and attempted to search him. According to statements given by the officers, Thomas was uncooperative and resisted when they attempted to search him. “Now you see my fists?” Fullerton police officer Manny Ramos asked Thomas while slipping on a pair of latex gloves. “Yeah, what about them?” Thomas responded. “They are getting ready to fuck you up,” said Ramos. A video of the event surfaced, and Thomas can be heard repeatedly screaming in pain while officers are heard repeatedly asking him to place his arms behind his back. He audibly responds “Okay, I’m sorry!” and “I’m trying!” while the officers stretch his arm back. The police officers claim that, unable to get Thomas to comply with the requests, they used a taser on him (up to five times- to his scrotum as well, according to a witness statement, and the video footage), and in the video Thomas can be heard screaming “Dad! Dad!” Six officers were involved in subduing Thomas, who was unarmed and had a history of mental illness. Thomas was initially taken to St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton but was transferred immediately to the UC Irvine Medical Center with severe injuries to his head, face, and neck. One of the paramedics testified that he was first instructed to attend to a police officer’s minor injury and then noticed Thomas lying unconscious in a pool of blood.”
Tony Rackauckas, the Orange County District Attorney, provided evidence that Thomas did comply with orders from Officer Ramos. A month after Kelly was beaten, six officers were placed on administrative leave. The Fullerton City Council called for the resignation of police Chief Michael Sellers. Sellers was subsequently placed on medical leave in August 2011. He resigned February 18, 2012.
This morning, Victor Blackwell of CNN, (@VictorCNN), tweeted that the ACLU has submitted a brief in the Kendrick Johnson case. They have taken a friend of the court position pertaining to the disclosure of the identity of 23 Twitter handles and cites First Amendment and privacy.
It’s actually the civil case filed by Kendrick’s parents for wrongful death. The Bell family responded with a counter-suit, alleging defamation. In their counter-claim, they allege that Kendrick’s mom used “authorized agents” to defame them on social media.
On November 2, 2015, I wrote in a post that people had been notified by Twitter that their account information had been subpoenaed in the Johnson v. Bell case. The Department of Justice filed a motion to intervene and a motion to stay discovery for 180 days pending completion of their investigation. The DOJ has extended their investigation into witness tampering and obstruction. The court denied the DOJ’s motions.
Also reported in that post is that a person who is a known internet harasser and extortionist tweeted to several individuals that their Twitter account information had been subpoenaed, and he did so days before Twitter notified those individuals. It’s the same person that one of our writers, Santiago, has a restraining order against and is currently in court in a contempt proceeding, alleging violation of that restraining order. Read the rest of this entry
William “robocop” Melendez is a former police officer for the City of Inkster, Michigan. In January, he made a traffic stop of 58-year old Floyd Dent. Floyd was driving on a suspended license. Dash-cam recorded Melendez dragging Floyd out of his vehicle, beating and choking Floyd while he is restrained by another officer.
Dash-cam video shows Melendez dragging Floyd out of his vehicle, putting him in a choke hold and striking him repeatedly during a traffic stop on January 28, 2015. While he is restrained, another officer tazes Floyd.
After brutalizing Floyd, he was charged with resisting arrest, assaulting a police office, and drug charges. Floyd claimed that the police planted a bag of crack cocaine in his car during the stop. After seeing the dash-cam video, a judge dismissed the charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. Prosecutors dropped the drug charges. The decision to drop the charges came after a lawsuit filed by Floyd was settled for $1.2 million dollars. At Melendez’s trial, Floyd testified that he has loss of memory due to Melendez’s beating. Read the rest of this entry
Here’s attorney David Allen again. In this video, he addresses default judgments, prove-up’s, and attachments to collect the judgment. Essentially, what attorney Allen says is that if you (speaking in general) are ever served with a summons and complaint, do not think that ignoring it makes the case go away.
I’ve been sitting in front of the television watching the news on this ongoing event. Much is not yet known, and the death troll continues to increase; now reported at 43 and with many others wounded.
It’s now after midnight in Paris. What appears to be an organized terror attack took place at three locations; a restaurant, a theater, and a sports stadium. An American heavy metal rock group was scheduled to perform at the theater, and it is reported that there are at least 100 hostages. MSNBC reported that there were tweets from those inside the theater saying that the terrorists were killing them one-by-one.
Paris has closed its borders. It has declared a state of emergency and deployed its military.
Telegraph has live stream (in French) as well as a timeline of terrorist attacks on France.
Remember this photo of bikers in Waco, Texas? 177 of them were arrested. On Tuesday, a grand jury returned indictments against 106 of them for engaging in organized criminal activity.
It took the grand jury 9 hours to reach the decision on the 106 bikers. District Attorney Abel Reyna said that the grand jury will return to consider charges against the other 71 bikers.
Nine people died and 20 were injured, which authorities say arose from an apparent confrontation between the Bandidos and the Cossacks motorcycle clubs. More than 430 weapons were recovered from the crime scene, including 151 firearms. No one has been charged in the deaths and injuries because investigators cannot determine whose bullets struck those who died or were injured.
Tuesday evening, Officers Norris Greenhouse, Jr. and Derrick Stafford pursued a SUV driven by Chris Few. It happened about 90 miles northwest of Baton Rouge in the town of Marksville. Few’s 6-year old son was in the passenger’s seat. Few was on a dead-end street, and that is when the two officers opened fire, hitting Jeremy Mardis five times in the head and chest, killing him. His dad was seriously wounded.
There are conflicting reports; some saying that there was a warrant out for Few, and others saying there was no warrant. No gun was found in Few’s possession.
Four officers were involved in the chase. All have been placed on paid administrative leave, but Greenhouse Jr. ,23, and Stafford, 32, have been charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.
State Police Col. Michael Edmonson said that they used some of the body cam footage in the investigation to make the decision to charge the two officers.
Greenhouse and Stafford were working second jobs as city marshals when the shooting happened. Greenhouse is a full-time Marksville police lieutenant and Stafford is a marshal in Alexandria.
KATC reports that their investigation uncovered that both officers have been previously accused of civil rights violations.
Hat tip to Santiago.
In June of this year, we reported what happened to Gabriel Carrillo at the Los Angeles County Jail where he went to visit his brother. The beating done to Gabriel resulted in the city settling a case for $1.2 million.
On Monday, former Sargent Eric Gonzalez was sentenced to 8 years in a federal prison for overseeing the backroom beating of Gabriel. U.S. District Judge George King ordered Gonzalez into custody immediately after sentencing, telling him he had “abused his authority and corrupted the very system he was sworn to uphold.”
Gonzalez was a 15-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department. In June, he was found guilty of deprivation of civil rights, conspiracy to violate constitutional rights and falsification of records. Four other deputies have been convicted in the case and await sentencing, while a fifth was indicted last month and faces trial in December.
The convictions in Carrillo’s beating are part of a federal investigation of civil rights abuses and corruption at the nation’s largest sheriff’s department.
Yahoo news reports that nearly two dozen members of the department, including the former second-in-command, have been charged with crimes ranging from beatings to obstruction of justice; 15 of them have been convicted so far, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In arguing for a sentence of more than 11 years, federal prosecutors stated;
“An aggravated assault with serious bodily injuries is a grave offense. When such a crime is undertaken by a gang of law enforcement and then covered up as if the victim committed the crime, the harm to important societal interests makes the crime all the more significant.”
A Texas couple, Mark Lesher, 63, and his wife, Rhonda, 50, were accused by a woman of sexual assault. Mark Lesher is a prominent attorney, and Rhonda was running a successful day spa. The accusation included a man who works on the Lesher’s ranch. Before they stood trial in January 2009, there was a steady stream of attacks on the Web forum Topix.com. The comments accused the couple of murder, encouraging pedophilia, drug abuse and other crimes that materially attack their characters.
In January 2009, the couple and their ranch hand were found not guilty on all charges.
Three years ago, the couple filed a 365-page lawsuit naming 178 pseudonyms used to post what they considered the most defamatory messages. They posted the lawsuit on Topix and served the company a subpoena to obtain the IP addresses. A Texas judge ordered Topix to turn over the identifying information about the anonymous posters. The Internet Protocol (IP) addresses led to a couple that owned a business, and accused the Lesher’s of sexual assault in 2008.
In July 2009, the Leshers filed an amended petition in the District Court of Tarrant County, Texas naming Shannon Coyel, the couple’s accuser; her husband Gerald Covel and his brother, James Coyel. Also named as a defendant was Apache Truck & Van Parts of Kennedale, Texas and two of its employers, Charlie and Pat Doescher.
On Friday, a jury awarded the Leshers a judgment of $13.78 million.
Mark and Rhonda Lesher stand on the steps of Collin County Courthouse in McKinney, Texas, shortly after their acquittal of sexual assault charges Jan. 16, 2009. On Friday, the couple were awarded
The Gazette reported a malicious prosecution suit is pending that names as defendants the Coyels and Red River County District Attorney Val Varley, who unsuccessfully prosecuted the sexual assault case against the Leshers. That suit accuses them of conspiring to convict the Leshers of a crime they did not commit. The newspaper reports that a jury trial is scheduled for August.
Ryan Calo, who teaches privacy law at Stanford Law School and is joining the faculty at the University of Washington School of Law, said
“Defamation is one area of law in which a jury or court have to figure out how much damage has been done. It’s not a car accident where you can calculate medical bills and how much work was lost after an injury. There’s something more ephemeral in a reputation.”
There is a difference between free speech, which states an opinion, and accusations stated as fact that have no basis in fact and causes harm to the personal lives of others.
There’s more on this story and other internet defamation stories on ABC News.
The Similarity of This Case and That Involving One of Our Writers
A Potpourri of things.
These last few months caused me to think about the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. It’s been a time when as soon as I think I’ve completed one thing, something else comes up. There are times when I long for the old days. Then, you could go to a general practitioner for almost any ailment, and almost every cure. There was no need to make an appointment for a blood test because they drew it right there in the office and sent it to the lab.
Truly, I don’t if it’s corporate business or medical malpractice insurance companies that caused the changes, but they are drooling on people who are already ill. I’ve probably put over a hundred miles on my car in the last few months running to this office, and that office, and back again.
Thinking about the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercials caused me to think about the Baby ETrade commercials. Remember those?
Updates in the News
Second student arrested for filming classroom takedown describes officer’s reputation: “He’s known as Officer Slam around our school”
Thanks for blogging this. Actually, I’m surprised that he was fired rather than placed on paid vacation “pending investigation.”
Originally posted on The Fifth Column:
Body-slamming Officer Ben Fields has been fired, but cops won’t drop charges against student who filmed his attack
Officer Ben Fields, the South Carolina deputy who slammed and then threw a female high school student across a classroom this week, has been fired after video of his physical assault went viral. While the young girl recovers from injuries she sustained from the attack, according to her lawyer, officials have refused to drop criminal charges of disrupting a classroom against her and now one of the few students who protested against her violent arrest is speaking out about the fired deputy’s longstanding reputation at Spring Valley High.
Fields arrested two female high school students on Monday for disrupting the classroom. Niya Kenny was charged with disturbing school for filming the incident, and arrested in front of her class by Fields. She was later released from custody after posting $1,000 bail.
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As reported in Time
Comedian Amy Schumer and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer are teaming up to call for stricter gun laws, appearing together on Sunday in New York to push for expanded gun control legislation.
The Schumers, who are cousins, first announced their collaboration earlier this year after a deadly shooting in a Louisiana theater, where Amy’s movie Trainwreck was being screened.
“I don’t know why he picked my movie but … it’s something that I live with every day and I vowed to never forget the two lives that were tragically lost: Jillian Johnson, who was 33, and Mayci Breaux, who was just 21-years-old. These women are forever in my heart,” Schumer said on Sunday, the New York Daily News reports.
Sen. Chuck Schumer is pushing a proposal to prevent violent criminals, abusers and those with severe mental illnesses from purchasing firearms.
My Editorial Opinion
Originally posted on The Fifth Column:
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