Journey For Equal Justice In Valdosta, GA. The Death of Kendrick Johnson and Recent Judicial Complaints
(A note. Highlights in blue are embedded links to news sources. Clicking on them opens the source in a new tab.)
It’s been a long journey for the parents of Kendrick Johnson. In January 2013, the 17-year old’s body was found in a gym mat in the high school he attended. Local authorities ruled the death an accident. Kendrick’s parents hired a pathologist who found that Kendrick died of blunt force trauma.
To add insult to injury, all of Kendrick’s internal organs were missing, replaced with newspaper.
In April 2013, Kendrick’s parents Jackie, Kenneth Johnson, and 5 family members protested outside of the courthouse. The protest was designed to pressure the local sheriff’s office to release the investigative file of Kendrick’s death. They were arrested. In January 2015, they were convicted of civil disobedience. Their sentence was suspended for 12-months as long as they didn’t get arrested for civil disobedience in the next year.
Judge Mark Mitchell allowed cameras in the courtroom during the trial. He explains his order in the first 3 minutes of the below video.
In October 2013, federal prosecutors announced an investigation in Kendrick’s death. Read the rest of this entry
On January 13, 2013, 17-year old Kendrick Johnson’s body was discovered in a gym mat in Valdosta, GA. Local authorities and a government medical examiner determined that Johnson died of “positional asphyxia” due to an accident. They described the accident as Kendrick placing his shoes inside the gym mat and while retrieving them, he became stuck in the mat.
In October 2013, Kendrick’s parent had an independent autopsy performed. The cause of death was determined to be “apparent non-accidental blunt force trauma”. CNN reported on the independent autopsy. In the civil cases filed by the Johnson’s, the independent autopsy was not entered on the record. In their depositions, the Johnson’s testified that they had no proof that Kendrick was killed.
Thereafter, the Department of Justice opened an investigation. In June 2016, the DOJ closed their investigation citing insufficient evidence.
During the DOJ’s investigation, two suspects were brothers Brandon and Brian Bell. Brian Bell now attends the University of Akron where he plays linebacker on the football team.
On September 22, 2016, Raycom News Network reported that Brian Bell was charged with misdemeanor assault. The charge stems from a May fight. The victim, a 24-year old, said that he had a disagreement with one of Bell’s friends. He alleged that Brian Bell yelled at him and sucker punched him in the face. The victim was taken to Akron General Hospital and treated for a cut on his nose and swollen eyes.
Bell was arraigned on September 30, 2016. Arrest Nation, which reports on the arrests of athletes, also reported the arrest.
The media then went silent.
According to court records, on October 12, 2016, Brian Bell entered a plea bargain for the lesser charge of disorderly conduct. His sentence included payment of costs to the victim, no contact with the victim, and a $247.00 fine.
Nothing is reported as to whether Brian Bell’s arrest and conviction resulted in temporary suspension or other penalty for the football team.
(I’m writing this on 3 hours of sleep, so please forgive any typographical errors.)
In January 2013, 17-year old Kendrick Johnson was found dead in a gym mat in the Lowndes High School gym in Georgia. The US Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia opened an investigation in October of 2013.
This afternoon, DOJ offices announced that they will not file criminal charges in the death of Kendrick Johnson due to “insufficient evidence” to prove that anyone “willfully violated Kendrick Johnson’s civil rights” or committed any other crime.
Acting U.S. Attorney Carole Rendon stated;
“The Department of Justice, in particular the lawyers and investigators who have worked tirelessly on this investigation, express their most sincere condolences to Kendrick Johnson’s parents, family, and friends. We cannot imagine the pain of their loss, or the depths of their sorrow. We regret that we were unable to provide them with more definitive answers about Kendrick’s tragic death.”
In October 2015, the DOJ filed a motion in the civil case that Kendrick’s parents filed for wrongful death. In their filings, they said that their investigation expanded to include witness tampering and obstruction of justice. They also advised the Georgia court that the grand jury had convened. Read the rest of this entry
Fairborn Municipal Court Judge Beth Root has ruled that there is probable cause to charge Ronald T. Ritchie with making false alarms. Judge Root ruled that there was not probable cause to issue a criminal complaint against Ritchie for inciting to violence, inducing panic, involuntary manslaughter or reckless homicide. She has referred the case for making false alarms to a prosecutor.
On August 5, 2014, Ronald T. Ritchie called 911 reporting that a Black man was in the Beavercreek, Ohio’s Walmart pointing a gun at shoppers and children. Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams arrived and shot John twice, killing him. John had picked up an air rifle from the shelf in the store. The store’s surveillance video shows that John was not behaving as Ritchie reported.
John Crawford III was 22-years old. At the time he was killed by Officer Williams, a shopper, 37-year old Angela Williams, had a heart attack while rushing out of the store. She died.
The Dayton Daily News reports that 10 private citizens filed affidavits in Fairborn Municipal Court and turned in Walmart surveillance video synchronized to the 911 call by the FBI on March 25. Judge Root watched the synchronized video and ruled that at the time that Ritchie told 911 that John was pointing a gun at two children, that the video does not depict that event. Read the rest of this entry
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 (as of Nov. 23, 2015, form writer) 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
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.
On January 10, 2013, the body of 17-year old Kendrick Johnson was discovered in a rolled-up gym mat in the gym of the high school he attended. The Lowndes County Georgia Sheriff’s Office conducted the initial investigation and concluded that Kendrick died from a freak accident. They said he was going for a shoe that was at the bottom of the mat, got stuck, and died from asphyxiation.
Kendrick’s body was subsequently exhumed and the family had an independent autopsy performed that among other things, found that all of Kendrick’s internal organs were missing, and had been replaced with newspaper. The private pathologist concluded the teen died of blunt force trauma to the neck.
Videos from inside the school were released, and caused many questions, many of which pertained to missing portions or what appeared to be edits.
In October 2013, the Department of Justice began an investigation under the direction of U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. Read the rest of this entry
It’s rather insignificant because it doesn’t lead to identifying who killed 17-year old Kendrick Johnson, but it’s significant in the sense that there are consequences for people who break the law.
You might remember about the anonymous email purporting to have overheard a confession in the killing of 17-year old Kendrick Johnson. We reported it in March 2014.
The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous email dated January 27, 2014. The sender did not suggest that he or she witnessed the confession. Rather, the sender claims to have been given that information by someone who purportedly is aware of the confession by a person implicated in the email. Read the rest of this entry
Hat Tip To Yahtzee.
Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson have filed suit against a Georgia school district claiming it was negligent in protecting their son from harassment and bullying, which they allege led to his death. The lawsuit, filed in State Superior Court, also alleges that Lowndes County Board of Education violated Kendrick’s constitutional right to equal protection based on race.
Discoveries in this case have been numerous and shocking. The Sheriff’s Office ruled that Kendrick’s death was accidental. They contend that Kendrick climbed into the center of the gym mat to reach for a shoe, got stuck, and (in lay man’s terms), died from inability to breathe while upside down.
Photographs of the scene provide that Kendrick’s shoes were on top of his feet, and not at the bottom of the gym mat. Read the rest of this entry
I truly wish that people in the media would learn that words have meaning, and use the proper words. A rumor can be fake, but to say that an email is fake is not the same thing.
On March 19, 2014, we reported on a claim of confession probed in the Kendrick Johnson death.
Through their website, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous email dated January 27, 2014. On January 28, 2014, Chief Assistant District Attorney Bradfield Shealy issued a subpoena to Mediacom Communications Corporation to provide the subscriber information for the person submitting that email.
The sender did not suggest that he or she witnessed the confession. Rather, the sender claims to have been given that information by someone who purportedly is aware of the confession by one person implicated in the email.
CNN reports that a Lowndes County, Georgia, assistant district attorney has ordered a communications company to hand over internet records. Investigators received an anonymous email claiming an ex-schoolmate reportedly confessed to killing Kendrick Johnson.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Bradfield Shealy issued the subpoena to Mediacom Communications Corporation on January 28. They were ordered to provide the Lowndes County grand jury with subscriber information associated with the e-mail sent through the Lowndes County sheriff’s office’s website or submit the documents to the district attorney’s office or Lt. Jones before February 26.
Through a state Open Records Act, CNN now has the email and the subpoena from the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.
The anonymous email is dated January 27th. The sender does not suggest that he or she witnessed the confession. Rather, the sender claims to have been given that information by someone who purportedly is aware of the confession by one person implicated in the email.
Kendrick Johnson’s parents and their legal counselors, attorneys Chevene King and Benjamin Crump, are working hard, and within legal options, to uncover the truth surrounding the death of the 17 year-old. Their efforts led to discoveries and also having the U.S. Department of Justice open an investigation. Read the rest of this entry
It’s bad enough when a son is missing and later found dead. That is multiplied when police say it was an accident, but the body gives sign of a struggle and beating. When it’s discovered that internal organs were removed and replaced with newspaper, that’s enough to send any parent into numerous, emotional hoops — and demands for answers.
Today is a day of technology and social media. It keeps news flowing and people informed. I am grateful for it, but also overwhelmed by it. We continue seeking justice for Trayvon Martin, Ethan Saylor, Kendrick Johnson, Jonathan Ferrell, Jordan Davis, Marshall Coulter, Marlon Brown.
My fear? That before I can write on or update what is happening in any of these cases, another person with a disability, or a kid, or with dark skin will be unjustly killed by someone with a badge, or a gun owner who thinks a license to carry is a license to summarily kill, or by an unknown party or parties.
This is a long article. It is long because I want to answer a question that has been asked of me several times; i.e., why do I blog? Why do I blog about Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, etc. Read the rest of this entry