Category Archives: The Law — Inside & Outside it

Exclusive: A Leak from the FBI Mar-A-Lago Raid!

My sources are tireless . . . .

Imagine the Feds this past Monday morning, sweating in their suits and ties, but with rubber gloves up to the elbows, hands thrust deep in each of the Mar’s 477 (gold-plated?) toilets, searching fearlessly, searching relentlessly, thanking god no selfies were allowed, and no alligators have been seen nearby for a couple of weeks.

But the G-Mens’ –or G-persons’ — thoroughness paid off. . . .

And the implications of their find, as they unroll, are sure to be historic, once they dry out and if need be are deodorized.

But a source who insisted on anonymity leaked this sample. (The White House declined comment.) Our analysts are still poring over it.

We can’t wait to see more; especially the real stuff.

Ex-Cops Sentenced in George Floyd Case

AP News: Floyd family, others see inequality in penalties for ex-cops

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Three former Minneapolis police officers went before a federal judge during the last week to be sentenced for violating George Floyd’s civil rights, and for each man, U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson handed out penalties well below what prosecutors sought and below federal guidelines.

Tou Thao, who held back concerned bystanders as Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck, got 3 1/2 years. J. Alexander Kueng, who pinned Floyds back, got three. And Thomas Lane, who held Floyds feet and asked twice about rolling the Black man on his side, got 2 1/2.

For some Floyd family members and activists, the penalties were too small — and a bitter reminder of a justice system they say does not treat all people equally.

“Once again, our judicial system favored people that should be locked up forever,Floyds uncle, Selwyn Jones, said Thursday. The officers, he said, “contributed to the most brutal, heinous killing in most of our lifetimes.”

Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin, who is white, knelt on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes as Floyd repeatedly said he couldnt breathe and eventually grew still. The killing, recorded by bystanders, sparked protests worldwide and a reckoning over racial injustice in policing.

DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD
Excops Kueng, Thao sentenced for violating Floyd’s rights
Ruling may mean less time for 2 who violated Floyds rights
EXPLAINER: Not unusual for excop to report later for prison
Excop Lane gets 2 1/2 years for violating Floyds rights
Chauvin, who pleaded guilty to a federal count in which he admitted willfully depriving Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure, was sentenced to 21 years for that and for an unrelated case involving a 14yearold boy.

Lane, Thao and Kueng were all convicted of depriving Floyd of medical care; Kueng and Thao were also convicted on a second count of failing to intervene. When issuing sentences in cases that include multiple defendants, judges have to look at each defendants level of culpability and issue sentences that are proportional. Legal experts who spoke to The Associated Press did not expect any of them to receive sentences as long as Chauvins.

Mark Osler, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and former federal prosecutor, called the sentences for the three “groundbreaking, saying its rare for officers who dont directly commit killings to be held accountable.

Paris Stevens, Floyds cousin and a cochair of the George Floyd Global Memorial, said she didnt think Lane, Kueng and Thao should have gotten the same penalty as Chauvin — but the sentences they got were too low. She said police officers should be punished more harshly because of the power they hold, and said the three men could have helped Floyd, but didnt.

“They stood by and kind of watched,” she said.

Stevens saw favoritism in Magnusons sentences.

“I think all officers get favoritism in the court of law. Because historically that’s the way it’s played out,” she said.

At their sentencing hearings, Magnuson said Lane, who is white, and Kueng, who is Black, were rookies. He called Thao, who is Hmong American, a “good police officer, father and husband.” While he said the officers were culpable for violating Floyd’s rights, Magnuson also mentioned numerous letters of support that each officer received.

And during Chauvins sentencing, Magnuson appeared to suggest that Chauvin bore the most blame in the case, telling him: “You absolutely destroyed the lives of three young officers by taking command of the scene.”

Toshira Garroway, an activist who attended the sentencing hearings on Wednesday to support Floyd’s girlfriend, took exception to Magnusons assessment of Thao as “a good police officer, father and husband.

“That was irrelevant to what he did on May 25, 2020,” Garroway said.

Ayesha Bell Hardaway, who directs the Social Justice Law Center at Case Western Reserve University, said the judge “seemed to really have lost track of what occurred during those 9 minutes and 30 seconds and what she called an “egregious” killing.

She said Floyd’s killing sparked widespread awareness of the harm that excessive force and tactics can have, but worried that the sentences will undermine momentum for police reform.

“When someone dies and we’re only talking about the potential of two years in prison, I think there’s a strong concern, a wellfounded concern, that this removes the motivation for police to be more mindful of the way they choose to use force against individuals on the street,” Hardaway said.

Osler said any prison time for a police officer would likely make other officers think twice about declining to intervene.

“We should hope that it has the impact of changing behavior and prodding them to intervene when a life can be saved,” he said.

Angela Harrelson, an aunt of Floyd’s, said the judge showed favoritism when he allowed the three men to remain free pending sentencing and afterward — although that is frequently done in federal cases. Still, she celebrated the guilty verdicts as progress toward holding police accountable for their actions.

There’s a lot of triumphs that have been made in pushing forward. We are on the right track and police officers are being held accountable,” Harrelson said. “For Black and brown people, we are dismantling the system. It is peeling away before our eyes.”

In separate proceedings in state court, Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter and was sentenced to a 22 1/2 years, which is being served at the same time as his federal sentence. Lane pleaded guilty in state court to one count of aiding and abetting seconddegree manslaughter and is awaiting sentencing there. Kueng and Thao face an Oct. 24 trial on charges of aiding and abetting both murder and manslaughter.
___

Groves reported from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Associated Press/Report for America reporter Trisha Ahmed contributed from Minneapolis.

New “MAGA” ad (Mothers Against Greg Abbott) Goes Viral in Texas Guv Race

Washington Post: In viral ad, doctor calls Texas governor to get permission for abortion

María Paúl – July 28, 2022
A new political ad targeting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) starts with a scene that could unfold in any hospital across the country — a doctor delivering gutting news to an expectant couple: “Your baby has a catastrophic brain abnormality.”

If she were to make it to full term, he continues, the baby girl would die just hours after birth.

“She will suffer,” the doctor adds, before telling the tearful parents that a decision will have to be made on terminating the pregnancy — a choice that “only one person can make.”

“And that person is Greg,” the doctor explains, revealing a portrait of Abbott.
[Click here to watch the ad.]

The ad, which quickly went viral,  was released Monday by a new political action committee Mothers Against Greg Abbott criticizes Texas abortion laws. Even before the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Texas’s “heartbeat act” — which banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — was among the most restrictive in the country, relying on ordinary citizens to report suspected violations.

A “trigger law” banning abortions, with few exceptions, is set to take effect next month. As a result, clinics in the state have shut down, health providers are wary of providing certain medical interventions and some mothers have been left feeling “like a walking coffin” after suffering miscarriages, The Washington Post has reported.

The group’s video struck a chord nationally, garnering about 7 million views across Twitter, Instagram and YouTube within three days of its release.

A spokesperson for Abbott didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post early Thursday. The Mothers Against Greg Abbott political action committee released another ad earlier this month criticizing Texas policies on guns, the pandemic and education. The group says it includes mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts and grandparents “ready to fight” for change in their state.

The abortion ad mixes distress with dark humor, positing that reproductive health choices in Texas are now up to the state, leaving the parents-to-be utterly confused.

“Greg?” the woman in the ad says. Who’s Greg?! her partner asks, using a slightly more profane turn of phrase when the physician tells them only Greg can decide the next steps.

Then the doctor, wielding a red phone with a direct line to Abbott, has a brief conversation with the governor. With a shrug, the doctor proceeds to tell the parents: “Yeah, that’s going to be a no. Best of luck to you.”

The ad ends with a close-up of the stunned couple and a question splashed on the screen: “Whose choice should it be?”

Though sardonic in essence, the scene portrayed in the ad rings true  with some doctors. Jennifer Gunter, an OB/GYN and New York Times contributor, posted when sharing the video that she once called a state legislator for permission to perform an abortion in the 1990s.

“This is not a hypothetical people,” she added.

Since it was released, some candidates have cited the ad to persuade Texans to vote for Democrats who support abortion rights. Beto O’Rourke, who’s running against Abbott in what polls suggest is a tightening gubernatorial race, says he’ll “fight for Texas women to have the freedom to decide what is best for their health, family, and future.”

Still, others have called the video “poorly executed,” including one woman who received a terminal diagnosis when pregnant but chose to carry to term. “I’m left wondering if whoever wrote it has ever experienced a fatal diagnosis. And if they did, was their doctor this callous?” the woman shared on Twitter.

In response, Chelsea Aldrich, the video’s director, said the clip was based on the “real story about another real mother who chose to terminate.”

“This is not a judgment on any woman’s choice. It’s a referendum on lack of choice,” Aldrich wrote.

AN URGENT CALL FOR SOME PHILADELPHIA FRIENDS TO — “GET A CLUE”

A dispatch from Quaker flyover country.

Let’s see now: I’ve been in North Carolina for twenty years. Twelve years ago, in 2010, the state government was taken over by a rightwing party that was a militant forerunner of today’s authoritarian MAGA movement.

Science March, 2017, in Raleigh (not Philadelphia).

In the 12 years since then, Carolinians of more progressive views and values have had to struggle and push back against constant assaults on (a partial list) voting, women’s full rights, poor Blacks, whites & Hispanics, the stifling of Medicaid expansion, green lights for major, deadly polluters, hostility to immigrants, degradation of public schools and colleges, entrenched anti-union laws, undermining the integrity of teachers, and much more.

“Bathroom Bill” Protest at the NC legislative building, Raleigh.

There have been high points of open resistance: we mostly beat back a viciously anti-trans “bathroom bill”; enough non-extreme candidates fought their way into the legislature so our moderate governor’s vetoes of the worst bills can mostly be upheld.

We’ve also seen some memorable public protests: many big marches and rallies were mounted against transphobia, Confederate monuments and voter suppression: the “Moral Mondays” campaign of 2013 saw nearly a thousand citizens arrested in disciplined nonviolent civil disobedience against voter suppression (and one among them was me). Continue reading AN URGENT CALL FOR SOME PHILADELPHIA FRIENDS TO — “GET A CLUE”

God Save Us from the Supreme Court Theocrats!

NOTE: Kennedy v. Bremerton is the short name for this case, but it would be better dubbed the “Blow Another Big Hole In the Freedom from Religion & the First Amendment!” Case.

As the respected SCOTUS blog noted,

Rachel Laser, the president of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the school district, took a different view. She called the decision “the greatest loss of religious freedom in our country in generations” and she warned that Kennedy’s supporters would “try to expand this dangerous precedent – further undermining everyone’s right to live as ourselves and believe as we choose.”

In a stinging dissent, justice Sotomayor wrote (and showed) that the bulldozer majority had “misconstrue[d]” — more plainly, falsified & lied about — the facts” of the case, depicting Kennedy’s prayers as “private and quiet” when the prayers had actually caused “severe disruption to school events.”

I’m not an atheist; in fact I’ll be attending worship in a couple of hours, in a very small, but doughty, minority sect (aka Quakers) and may well even pray there. Our group had to struggle & suffer to gain religious freedom, for ourselves and others, and that experience remains unforgotten. So whatever is columnist Pamela Paul’s faith or unfaith, (her private business), I nod in gratitude as she spotlights some of the many ominous implications of this precedent, especially for those associated with minority faiths, or the steadily growing population of “Nones.” Added up, to paraphrase a stanza from The Music Man,  they spell

Trouble with a Capital T,

And that rhymes with P

And that stands for

Pushing private prayer on a progressively more p*ssed off public.

New York Times For This Supreme Court, Justice Isn’t Blind. Faith Is.

Opinion Columnist

Imagine your boss fervently proclaiming his religious beliefs at the end of a companywide meeting, inviting everyone on the team who shares those beliefs to join in. You’re surrounded by colleagues and other higher-ups. Everyone is watching to see who participates and who holds back, knowing that whatever each of you does could make or break your job and even your career, whether you share his convictions or not. But hey, totally up to you!

That’s what Joseph Kennedy, a former assistant coach in Kitsap County, Wash., did with his team — only he did it with public-school students at a high-school football game. When the superintendent made clear that by actively inviting players to join him at the 50-yard line for postgame Christian prayers, he was violating school policy and, by the way, the Constitution’s Establishment Clause, Kennedy took to the media, turning a small town’s school sporting event into a three-ring circus and ugly social media sideshow, with students effectively forced to perform or suffer the consequences.

Naming the single worst decision of the Supreme Court’s disgraceful 2021-22 term is a tough call. But the one that best captures the majority’s brazen efforts to inflict its political and religious agenda on the rest of the country may well be Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, which ruled that the coach had a constitutional right to pray on the field. Overturning precedent and in a cynical elision of fact, Justice Neil Gorsuch, writing for a 6-to-3 majority, affirmed Kennedy’s assertion that his proselytizing on government property during a public-school function was “private,” “personal” and “quiet.”

It was nothing of the kind. In easily observable fact, Kennedy’s religious display was public, vocal and coercive, as demonstrated by testimony from football players and other community members and by video and photographs of the coach surrounded by crowds of people on bent knee. According to an amicus brief filed by one of Kennedy’s football players and seven other members of the community on behalf of the school district, participation in Kennedy’s prayers was “expected.” Students were explicitly encouraged by him to ask the other teams’ coaches and players to join in, something Kennedy himself boasted about.

Breaking: Arrest & Protective Services Corroborate Report of 10 Year-Old Ohio Rape Pregnancy

NOTE: I saw earlier reports about this event, as well as the questions as to whether it actually happened; rightwing Ohio politicians called it a pro-abortion lie.  I didn’t see credible reporting that corroborated it; so I held back on posting about it, to minimize the chance of contributing to mis- or disinformation.

But today brought multiple pieces of public corroboration, in the Columbus, Ohio Dispatch, an established credible paper.

Corroboration is not the same as proof of guilt. This story is ongoing. But here’s the report.

Columbus Dispatch: Arrest made in rape of Ohio girl that led to Indiana abortion drawing international attention

Bethany Bruner, Monroe Trombly, Tony Cook

The Columbus Dispatch — July 13, 2022

A Columbus man has been charged with impregnating a 10-year-old Ohio girl, whose travel to Indiana to seek an abortion led to international attention following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade and activation of Ohio’s abortion law.
Gerson Fuentes, 27, whose last known address was an apartment on Columbus’ Northwest Side, was arrested Tuesday after police say he confessed to raping the child on at least two occasions. He’s since been charged with rape, a felony of the first degree in Ohio.

Columbus police were made aware of the girl’s pregnancy through a referral by Franklin County Children Services that was made by her mother on June 22, Det. Jeffrey Huhn testified Wednesday morning at Fuentes’ arraignment. On June 30, the girl underwent a medical abortion in Indianapolis, Huhn said. Continue reading Breaking: Arrest & Protective Services Corroborate Report of 10 Year-Old Ohio Rape Pregnancy

Supreme Court Dissents: Naming The Outrages, Painting A Better Future — Someday

Joan E Greve in Washington — Mon 11 Jul 2022

Opinions from Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor send stark warning about increasingly radical court abandoning long-held principles

Taken together, the dissents written by the three liberal justices this term send a clear warning about an increasingly radical court that is abandoning long-held principles and even the facts of a case to enact an extreme conservative agenda in America.

While supreme court opinions can frequently become mired in legalese that is incomprehensible to the average reader, the wording of the liberals’ dissents is often simple and direct. The opinions can read like a desperate attempt to reach beyond the court’s standard audience of legal experts to speak to the millions of people who will feel the impact of these rulings.

“Today, the court leads us to a place where separation of church and state becomes a constitutional violation,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissenting opinion to conservatives’ decision in Carson v Makin. She concluded: “With growing concern for where this court will lead us next, I respectfully dissent.”

Paul Schiff Berman, a professor at George Washington University Law School, said dissenting opinions help foster “a culture of argument” around America’s laws. . . . Continue reading Supreme Court Dissents: Naming The Outrages, Painting A Better Future — Someday

Watching January 6: Bags Packed, Ready to Flee

CNN Opinion: As a Jewish American, I don’t see this country quite the same way after January 6

CNN Opinion by Nathan Wolfson — July 25, 2022

Nathan Wolfson is the deputy digital director and social media manager at J Street, a pro-Israel, nonprofit advocacy group. He lives in Washington, DC. The views expressed here are his own. Read more opinion at CNN.

Each session of the House committee investigating the events of January 6 showed us just how far parts of the country have traveled, unbeknownst to most of us, down a road towards extremism, white nationalism and antisemitism.

We all saw the throngs of protesters storm the Capitol, waving Confederate flags and spewing racist hate. As it turns out, my vantage point was a bit closer than for most Americans.

I live close to Capitol Hill, the neighborhood that abuts Congress and congressional office buildings.

From the window of my home, I watched throngs of mostly white men in red MAGA hats gathering that morning, many of whom I suspect were violently attacking Capitol police a few hours later and hoping to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power. As their numbers swelled in my neighborhood, my wife and I scrambled to pack our bags.

Within a stone’s throw of my front door, I saw men wearing shirts referencing Nazism and the SS. I learned from news reports that one of protesters who breached the Capitol wore a t-shirt bearing the words “Camp Auschwitz.” To see those symbols and messages worn proudly was chilling. Still, I never expected the violence the country would witness that day. Continue reading Watching January 6: Bags Packed, Ready to Flee

Eloquence Exemplified In Dissent: Courting the Post-Roe Future

Excerpts from the dissent by justices: Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. (Some emphasis has been added.)

After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had. The majority accomplishes that result without so much as considering how women have relied on the right to choose or what it means to take that right away. The majority’s refusal even to consider the life-altering consequences of reversing Roe and Casey is a stunning indictment of its decision.

. . . The majority accuses Casey of acting outside the bounds of the law to quell the conflict over abortion – of imposing an unprincipled “settlement” of the issue in an effort to end “national division”. Continue reading Eloquence Exemplified In Dissent: Courting the Post-Roe Future