Best 'enemy of the people' story all week!
Hilde Lysiak, the publisher and chief reporter for the Orange Street News in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, took a small stand for freedom of the press this week. During a visit to Patagonia, Arizona, Lysiak brought her readers and the internet the story of an Arizona cop who thought he was a big old Mister Man and could boss around a member of the press, just because she's 12 years old and rides a bicycle. We have no doubt she'll be getting ignored by Donald Trump before his term is over. How neat is this kid? The Arizona Republic reports she's the "youngest member of the national Society of Professional Journalists."
The Hilde and Goliath story blew up on social media after Lysiak posted video of Patagonia's town marshal, Joseph Patterson, telling her it was illegal to record his face and put it on the internet. He was, of course, not right about that. Lysiak writes that she had been riding to check out a tip Monday when Patterson stopped her and asked for her ID. She told him she was a reporter, and he replied, "I don't want to hear about any of that freedom of the press stuff," then added he was "going to have you arrested and thrown in juvey."
RBG helps put smackdown on civil asset forfeiture.
The Supreme Court has pulled the plug on what was proving to be a gross but lucrative side hustle for law enforcement. In a unanimous decision, the Court ruled that the Constitution's ban on excessive fines applies to individual states, as well.
Tyson Timbs, of Marion, Indiana, is a self-described "former heroin junkie." He pleaded guilty five years ago to selling $260 worth of heroin. The government seized his $42,000 Land Rover through the process of "civil asset forfeiture" or, in layman's terms, state-sanctioned piracy. Timbs was not a criminal mastermind. He only sold drugs twice, both times to cops. He bought the Land Rover with money from his late father's insurance policy. Yes, he used the car to buy drugs but even so, the maximum fine by Indiana law for his crimes was $10,000.
It's a bipartisan push to ban civil forfeiture ... finally.
South Carolina law enforcement has a bad habit of using black people as their own personal ATMs. The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail has exposed the shameful practice of civil forfeiture in its amazing TAKEN series. Anna Lee at the News published a chilling followup today about the town of Nichols, where cops functioned as modern-day pirates without the cool eyepatches. They stopped motorists and robbed them blind with only the merest whisper of due process.
Nichols, located about an hour north of Myrtle Beach, is a town that's been hit hard by the climate change the president claims doesn't exist. It's been in decline for a while. Textile plants closed. Retailers bolted. But it still boasted a revenue stream from tourists heading to the beach, and civil forfeiture made that stream a raging river.
Same shit, different location.
In January, the government finally closed Tornillo, that tent city shelter that had housed up to 3,800 teens at a time. Partly because of pressure from the public and lawmakers, but mostly because the Texas nonprofit that ran the place for the Department of Health and Human Services decided not to renew the contract. Some of the kids stored at Tornillo were released to sponsors in the US, and others were shifted to other facilities around the country. But the closure of the Tornillo kinder-kamp wasn't the end of shitty warehousing of migrant kids, heavens no, because the government has another "temporary" shelter, this one in Homestead, Florida, where kids aged 13 to 17 have also been kept crammed in close quarters for months at a time. In December, the feds expanded the Homestead shelter's capacity from 1,350 to 2,350 children, and in recent days, the place has been the focus of critical coverage from the Miami Herald, Huffington Post, and NPR.
Tornillo had been the object of protest not simply because it was a bunch of tents (very nice air-conditioned tents, the government kept pointing out), but because as a "temporary" shelter on federal land, it was exempt from regulations that apply to other child-storage facilities under HHS management. Staff didn't have to be licensed child-care workers and the kids didn't have to receive an education, although they did have the option of filling out workbooks if they wanted to. Access to mental health services and legal help were also iffy at Tornillo.
And big surprise, same goes for the shelter in Homestead, which is on federal land borrowed from the Job Corps, but is actually operated by a for-profit outfit, Comprehensive Health Services, Inc. Since it's allegedly meant only to handle "temporary" overflow of "unaccompanied alien children" (the charming bureaucratic term for kids who come to the US without parents or guardians), the Homestead shelter is also exempted from regulations that apply to other shelters, as the Miami Herald explains:
Temporary emergency shelters, according to federal officials, are any "unlicensed care provider facility that provides temporary emergency shelter and services for unaccompanied alien children when licensed facilities are near or at capacity."
Being unlicensed means the facilities like Homestead don't have to be certified by state authorities responsible for regulating facilities that house children. Temporary shelters also don't have to comply with the 1997 "Flores Settlement," which limits the length of time and conditions under which U.S. officials can detain unaccompanied minors — 20 days.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), a key figure in the opposition to Trump's treatment of migrant kids and their families, is pissed, and recently reintroduced his "Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act," aimed at banning the use of "temporary" shelters to imprison migrant kids. Merkley told the Herald,
Trump takes on Beto, you're not getting a tax refund, and David Pecker's little Bonesaw. Your morning news brief!
Morning Wonketariat! Here's some of the things we may be talking about today.
That's it, we're done.
It's amazing what you can learn from Freedom of Information Act requests. Like for instance this week we learn, via FOIA requests by a transparency non-profit, that the FBI investigated a lefty group after some of its members were assaulted by neo-Nazis, because what if those mean assault victims intended to bleed on the poor Nazis? The same group also FOIA'd another tranche of training documents in which the FBI warns about the threat of "pro-choice extremists," even though there aren't any such things in the real world. This whole mess really reminds us of that old saying: Who watches the watchers hand their beer to a buddy and say "Watch THIS!"?
Not the best Black History Month celebration.
Alabama's attorney general ruled Tuesday that a Hoover police officer "did not commit a crime" when he fatally shot a black man he "mistook" for a gunman during a mall shooting last Thanksgiving. This probably shocks no one, which itself is a crime.
The police officer shot Emantic "EJ" Bradford Jr., 21, in the back three times while Bradford was helping to evacuate shoppers. Someone should be held responsible for his extrajudicial summary execution, and after careful consideration of at least several minutes, the state has selected Bradford himself.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall released a thick 26-page report of bullshit concluding that the officer, identified in the interests of full transparency as "Officer 1," was "justified and not criminal" for killing Bradford. "Officer 1" saw Bradford "running toward the initial shooter and victim with a firearm visibly in hand." There was no way Bradford could've been one of those "good guys with a gun" the NRA talks about. He was after all black.
The report says, "Officer 1's mistaken belief does not render his actions unreasonable."
"A reasonable person could have assumed that the only person with a gun who was running toward the victim of a shooting that occurred just three seconds earlier fired the shots," the report concludes.
Marshall released footage of the shooting yesterday. It is not pleasant. The police had resisted during so for months because they claimed it would "compromise" the investigation. The State Bureau of Investigation wants to assure us that the "investigation" involved witnesses and even evidence. This includes cell phone videos from shoppers, mall surveillance footage, body cam video, text messages, and even Facebook posts. They all helped Marshall reached the conclusion that, yes, Bradford was shot but it doesn't matter. All that mattered was "Officer 1's" fear and mistaken assumptions. Bradford, while wielding a licensed handgun, managed to avoid shooting random bystanders.
The mall surveillance footage had no audio, so it was unclear if "Officer 1" gave Bradford any verbal commands before shooting him in the back like a dog if you're the kind of asshole who shoots dogs in the back. Two eyewitnesses claim they heard some commands, but "Officer 1" reported that "he did not give any commands due to the imminent nature of the threat." That's how comfortable a cop is that the fix is in for him. He has witnesses willing to smooth things out for him, and he's, like, "Naw, I'm good. I didn't have time for that 'Law & Order' shit. Do I look like Jerry Orbach?"
The Alabama ACLU decried the attorney general's decision and made the radical claim that "police need to be held accountable when they shoot and kill innocent people." Damn hippies.
The attorney for "Officer 1" said that neither he nor his client will release any public statement about the shooting, not even an "oops, my bad." You'd like to think this bothers him, but that's probably a stretch. Bradford's family is left to mourn the senseless killing of a loved one like far too many black parents, siblings, and children. However, they don't plan to go out hunting for random cops to enact their vengeance like a common Liam Neeson. Their attorney, Benjamin Crump, says he'll file a civil suit against the city of Hoover. Considering that the police originally misidentified Bradford as the mall shooter for a full day before retracting their statement, they might have a solid case. It won't bring back Bradford nor will it keep "Officer 1" off the streets. He will continue to suck at law enforcement.
Tuesday was also what would've been Trayvon Martin's 24th birthday. Black people die senselessly and we're always told it was "justified." It happens so often, but we should never stop getting angry.
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Nice of them to get around to it.
After a week of being in lockdown without electricity or heat, prisoners held at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn finally were treated to the luxury of minimally livable conditions again Sunday night. A fire knocked out the jail's electricity and heat January 27, during record cold temperatures, leading to protests by families over the weekend and a whole bunch of lawsuits. Thank goodness the Federal Bureau of Prisons got right on that, so at least nobody died, good job guys, promotions all around!
Yet more weaponized incompetence.
In court filings Friday, the federal government argued that even though a recent government report stated that many more children were taken from their parents at the border than have been accounted for, trying to reunite all of them with their parents would be a heck of a lot of work, and taking them away from their new homes would be disruptive, so it would be best just to leave things as they are.
What, you don't agree?
Fight *for* the power!
A major story broke this week about how law enforcement in South Carolina is routinely seizing cash and property from black people without any due process. This is horrific and something a sitting senator from that state might, you know, care about or at least make a tepid statement opposing.
Tim Scott remained silent. Always a good idea for a black man when the police are involved. But what about South Carolina's senior senator, the shouty guy from the Brett Kavanaugh hearings? He has courageously spoken out against what he perceives as gross violations of a citizen's civil rights.
Look at Graham "fight the power"! And for such a noble cause. Roger Stone is the most recent Donald Trump associate to be indicted for multiple crimes, including lying to Congress and witness tampering. Graham was flustered by the FBI's aggressive actions of gently knocking on Stone's door before dawn and disturbing him while he's peacefully dreaming of stolen presidential elections. It was all quite rude. They didn't even call to say they were coming.
This is some true gangster shit.
The Greenville News and Anderson Independent Mail teamed up to break a story this week about organized crime in South Carolina. Unfortunately, the "gangsters" are members of law enforcement. This shocking expose, an impressive feat of local reporting, starts off horribly and only gets worse from there.
When a man barged into Isiah Kinloch's apartment and broke a bottle over his head, the North Charleston resident called 911. After cops arrived on that day in 2015, they searched the injured man's home and found an ounce of marijuana.
So they took $1,800 in cash from his apartment and kept it.
There are multiple accounts of the police treating citizens, primarily African Americans, like living ATMs. Spartanburg County deputies stopped an Atlanta businessman for speeding on Interstate 85. He wasn't charged, but the deputies found $29,000 in his car and took it with them. This was literal highway robbery.
A deal only a Trump could love.
Donald Trump didn't just promise WALL in 2016. He also promised he was going to put Homeland Security on a hiring binge, because while government is unnecessary, having lots of ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents is absolutely necessary to Make America White Again.
Yeah, this is the part where we tell you the two agencies actually have fewer agents now than when Trump signed the executive order asking for 15,000 new immigration cops, as the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday. Surprise! But at least CBP paid an assload of money -- $60.7 million! -- to a consulting firm to hire thousands of new agents. But actually the company only scraped up 33 new agents, and we suspect at least one or two of them were actually cardboard standees of Charles Bronson in the 1980 movie Borderline. Whaddya want to bet the interviews were all carried out in meeting rooms at Trump hotels? (We're just guessing, there.)
Look, these things happen.
During the 24 years Joe Arpaio was getting praise for being the super-tough sheriff of Maricopa County, he somehow let at least 50 Sheriff's Office firearms get lost or stolen, according to an ongoing audit. Sheriff Paul Penzone, who beat Arpaio in the 2016 election, announced partial results of the audit Friday. Penzone had ordered a complete inventory of missing Maricopa County Sheriff's Office weapons last November, after a shootout in which a man who had two stolen sheriff's office weapons in his car was shot and killed by police. Penzone said the 50-odd guns were all lost or stolen before he became sheriff, so he didn't actually have to name who was in charge when THAT happened. The Arizona Republic reports the missing weapons included "29 fully automatic weapons, 20 short-barrel shotguns and one short-barrel rifle."
Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Phoenix with all that stuff!
Maybe 'No family separation policy' was a pun. Or a palindrome.
US Senator Jeff Merkley is calling for the FBI to investigate Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for lying to Congress last month when she denied the existence of a family separation policy in House testimony.
Thursday, Merkley released to NBC News an internal Homeland Security document in which DHS and the Justice Department hashed out plans for what would become the Trump administration's family separation policy, arguing that separating familiies would scare asylum seekers away from the US. The document is from December 2017, well in advance of the family separation policy Nielsen repeatedly said didn't exist.
The document Merkley released is actually the second DHS memo to show Nielsen was lying; a previous memo from April 2018 also discussed options for taking kids from their parents at the border. That first memo was released last September, after a FOIA request, but Nielsen nonetheless said under oath, when she testified to the House Judiciary Committee in December, "I'm not a liar, we've never had a policy for family separation." She also has claimed DHS was simply enforcing existing laws, so no new policy, no new policy, YOU'RE the new policy.
Jason Van Dyke's sentence is a slap in the face
Back in October, the fortunately former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke shot the 17-year-old McDonald 16 times as he walked away from the cop, which would make him the black hat in a spaghetti western. It turns out Judge Vincent Gaughan, however, is a fan of western villains because he sentenced Van Dyke to just six years and nine months in prison.
This was far less than the 18 years minimum the prosecution was seeking, and state sentencing guidelines allowed for up to 96 years or more. This is because McDonald was a human being, not a vintage automobile Van Dyke defaced with his keys because it was parked outside the lines. I'm sure the prosecution stressed this point. McDonald's great uncle, the Rev. Martin Hunter, movingly if perhaps futilely reminded the judge of his nephew's humanity when he read a letter that was written in McDonald's now silenced voice.
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