Tag: Racism

#BlackLivesMatter: Who Were James Brisette & Ronald Madison?

A legal journey that was set off more than a decade ago with the shooting of unarmed citizens by police officers in the desperate days after Hurricane Katrina wound toward a close on Wednesday when five former officers pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy, obstruction of justice and civil rights charges.

The plea agreements drew prison terms from three to 12 years. Those sentences were significantly shorter than those handed down when the men were convicted five years ago in verdicts that were later thrown out.

But the agreements were supported by the families of the victims and brought some degree of conclusion to a nearly 11-year endeavor that in ways presaged the current struggles over police and accountability in places like Baltimore, Cleveland and Ferguson, Mo.

“Today is the first day of the rest of my life,” Sherrel Johnson, the mother of 17-year-old James Brisette, one of the two people who were killed in the shootings, told reporters after the hearing. “Someone confessed ‘I did it. I did it.’ And that did my heart all the good in the world.”

The officers — Sgt. Kenneth Bowen, Sgt. Robert Gisevius, Officer Anthony Villavaso and Officer Robert Faulcon, as well as a detective, Arthur Kaufman, who was assigned to investigate the shooting — were initially indicted on state charges in 2007. But from there the case would be undergo years of troubles and reversals, eventually becoming drawn into a scandal in the federal prosecutors’ office here that took down the local United States attorney.

The Danziger case was one of several federal prosecutions of police officers for killings in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with 18 current and former officers facing charges at one point. These cases did not find an easy path in the courts; the prosecution of another high-profile police shooting, that of Henry Glover, ended mostly in acquittals.

But the cases did prompt the United States Justice Department to examine the city’s police force as a whole, and in 2012, the force was brought under a federally mandated consent decree, a court-administered blueprint for an overhaul of the department’s practices. That consent decree remains in place.

“Serving as an officer is one of the most complex and difficult jobs in our society,” Kenneth A. Polite Jr., the current United States attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, said at a news conference after the hearing. “At the same time, when individuals ignore their oath of office, and instead violate the civil rights of the public they are sworn to serve, they will be held accountable.”

The case began on Sept. 4, 2005, in a city still without order and drowning in floodwaters. Two groups of families and friends, all of them black, were crossing the Danziger bridge in search of food and relatives when police officers rushed to the scene in a Budget rental truck. The officers, responding to a distress call, opened fire with shotguns and AK-47s, sending those on the bridge, all of whom were unarmed, diving and running for cover.

Four people were severely injured — one woman lost part of her arm — and two were killed: James Brisette, and Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old developmentally disabled man who took a shotgun blast in the back.

The state indicted seven officers, but that indictment was dismissed for improprieties involving the grand jury. Six were then charged by federal prosecutors in 2010, and the next year five of them went to trial together. (The case of a retired sergeant, Gerard Dugue, was severed from the others. He is still waiting for a new trial after an earlier mistrial.)

At the federal trial of the five officers, defense lawyers emphasized that the men were rushing to the bridge under the belief — mistaken, as it turned out — that a policeman had been shot, and that under the extreme circumstances of the time, they should not be harshly judged. But prosecution witnesses, including other officers at the scene who had pleaded guilty, said officers had fired without warning and immediately after the shootings began to construct what would become an elaborate cover-up.

All of the men were found guilty and faced sentences of six to 65 years. At their sentencing, however, Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt of Federal District Court delivered a lengthy speech condemning the prosecution for its plea deals and its use of problematic witnesses, and deploring the mandatory minimum sentences he was forced to impose.

Two years later, he threw out the convictions, citing a scandal that had been unfolding in the local United States attorney’s office, involving senior prosecutors who had anonymously commented under online articles in the local media about cases on trial. Describing his own investigation into the scandal and his frustration with the Justice Department’s internal investigation, Judge Engelhardt insisted that the Danziger case be retried.

His disdain for the Justice Department at the 2011 trial that was still on stark display on Wednesday, when the judge said that the Danziger case “might most be remembered by the jiggery-pokery” of the prosecutors.

A panel of appeals court judges upheld Judge Engelhardt’s order for a new trial last year. In recent weeks, the lawyers from the Justice Department withdrew, which Judge Engelhardt deemed necessary for the case to move forward.

Under the terms of Wednesday’s deal, the four officers involved in the shooting received sentences ranging from seven to 12 years, with credit for time served. The fifth man, Mr. Kaufman, who was accused in the cover-up, got three years.

“This has been a terrible ordeal for our family, our friends and our community,” said Lance Madison, who was arrested — under false pretenses — by officers on the bridge just minutes after one of them shot and killed his younger brother Ronald., “I’m thankful that our mother is still with us and is able to see justice being served, and for these officers to finally be held accountable for their crimes. I hope and pray that no other family ever has to go through what we have gone through.”

*Originally published on New York Times.

Advertisements

#BlackLivesMatter: Who Was Raymond Allen, Jr.?

Texas Rangers are investigating the death of a Raymond Luther Allen, Jr., Galveston man who died in the hospital two days after being tased by a Galveston sheriff’s deputy and a Galveston police officer this week, a ranger said Thursday.

“We don’t do it because we think the police are criminally culpable,” Haralson said. “We do it because it needs to be done and it goes where it goes.”

Allen’s father, Raymond Allen Sr., blames the police for his son’s death.

“I think it was pretty low down,” he said. He said two witnesses told him that his son was hogtied, but he declined to disclose further details for fear of harming the investigation.

Police and sheriff’s deputies received a report of a man jumping repeatedly from the second floor of the Beachcomber Inn on 61st Street about a half block from the seawall shortly after 11 a.m. Monday, Haralson said. Officers encountered Allen Jr. in the parking lot of the Happy Buddha Restaurant next door to the motel, he said.

Motel manager Peter Wolbach said there was no record of Allen Jr. being registered, although an employee saw him leaving the property.

Police at first were concerned about Allen Jr.’s welfare, Haralson said.

“Initially it was concern for his erratic behavior,” he said. “The first thing they asked was, ‘Man, do I need to call you an ambulance?'”

A deputy and officer each Tased Allen Jr. while trying to restrain him and reported he stopped breathing, Haralson said. An ambulance took Allen Jr. to the University of Texas Medical Branch’s John Sealy Hospital where he died Wednesday, Haralson said.

Department of Public Safety records show that Allen Jr. was arrested 20 times by the Galveston police and once by DPS between 1994 and 2010 on charges that included unlawfully carrying a weapon, assault, evading arrest and drug possession.

Allen Jr. was the father of three children, ages 4, 10 and 13, said sister-in-law Lenora Amy. Amy said his police record did not reflect the way he was seen by his family and his neighbors.

“We’re not going to let them take away his memory,” she said.

A week before his death, Allen Jr. placed flowers on the grave of his grandmother, Sammie Allen, as he has done every year on her birthday since she died 15 years ago, said his aunt, Jeanette Dotson.

“He was loved by all,” Allen Sr. said. “He had compassion for people’s lives and tried to bring joy to others.”

*Originally published on Chron.

 

Discrimination Doesn’t Discriminate Against African Americans

 

I’ve never heard anyone say, well, the LGBT community is not being discriminated against because Ellen DeGeneres has her own show and is making millions. They only say that about African Americans.” – Shannon Sharpe

 

What are your thoughts on Mr. Sharpe’s comments?

 

Use That Voice!

Keep doin’ what you’re doin’ Colin!

In the immediate aftermath of Colin Kaepernick’s first protest of the national anthem, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he believed in the right to free speech, but also wanted to make sure everyone knew he was a genuine star-spangled patriot (if not a Patriot).

But in discussing the continued displays over the weeks since, Goodell said he appreciates the social conscience of players who choose to speak out, hoping they can use their voices in a way to solve some problems.

“As I’ve said before, I truly respect our players wanting to speak out and change the community,” Goodell said, via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com. “We don’t live in a perfect society. We want them to use that voice. They’re moving from protests to progress and trying to make things happen in the communities, and I admire that about our players [being] willing to do that.”

The phrase “from protests to progress” sounds Frank Luntz-style focus-group approved, but it’s at least a recognition that protests are happening. Goodell said he has not spoke with Kaepernick since the 49ers quarterback began sitting, then kneeling for the national anthem to bring attention to racism and police brutality.

“Obviously, we want to respect people,” Goodell said. “We want to respect our differences. We want to reflect our flag and our country, and our players understand that. So I think where they’re moving and how they’re moving there is very productive, and we’re going to encourage that.”

While it’s not exactly a stirring call to arms, it’s at least a recognition that enough players are willing to say something that it’s going to be hard to keep them all from doing so.

colin

*Originally published on NBC Sports.

28, No 29 Reasons Why We Still Need A Black History Month

With everything going on, many question the need for Black History Month 150 years after slavery. Well here are 29 GOOD reasons why this country needs to continue to celebrate Black History Month every February. Click on the picture to read more:

  1. Oscars
  2. ALM 2
  3. Starwars boycott
  4. Rancic
  5. nshirt
  6. Charleston9
  7. CEO
  8. SandraBland
  9. FGray
  10. Mizzou
  11. blackface
  12. Cam Newton
  13. cornrows
  14. Connecticut
  15. classroom dragged
  16. Harvard
  17. Miami
  18. Flint
  19. SCOTUS
  20. Racist cop
  21. TX pool party
  22. Wine train
  23. MLynch
  24. Loretta Lynch
  25. Oklahoma
  26. Hospital
  27. wealth gap
  28. Dolezal

 

Yep, all of these events took place in 2015. Remember to click on the picture to read more about it. Which of them do you remember?