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Roundup: Racially disproportionate police stops return to NYC, FBI wastes public money baiting protesters into crimes, the right crushes on (yet) another authoritarian strongman
Greetings, Watch readers!
I’m Peter Beck, Radley’s intern, and I’ll be handling the latest round up. Radley also asked me to tell you a bit about myself. I’m currently a junior at Davidson College, where I’m studying political science and philosophy. Previously, I interned with the Charleston Public Defender’s Office and the Charleston criminal defense firm Adams & Bischoff, LLC. I have an energetic Boykin Spaniel named Rusty, and I enjoy listening to Americana music while exploring the Southeast. I plan to law school after graduating.
On to the roundup . . .
The New York Civil Liberties Union released data to the Gothamist that shows staggering racial disparities among interactions by the New York Police Department under the leadership of former cop turned mayor Eric Adams. Just 5 percent of NYPD pedestrian were white. Meanwhile, 72 percent of Blacks and Latinos stopped were innocent. Adams’ tenure has also seen the most police stops since 2015, including 670,000 traffic stops, among which 90% of those arrested were Black or Latino. NYPD mandates officers to report the cause for a stop, yet 92 percent of stops ambiguously list “fits a relevant description” or “other” as the reason officers initiated the stop.
The Intercept published a story uncovering a loophole used by police to access databases of DNA belonging to individuals who specifically opted out from being included in those databases. The piece highlights the ever-present privacy dangers of the burgeoning genealogy market.
In 2023 alone, Baltimore taxpayers have had to pay $8.3 million in settlements to victims of police misconduct. The sum includes lawsuits arising after Baltimore police officers struck and killed two innocent civilians during car chases, broke a man’s arm after pinning him at a bar, and shot a stun gun to a fifteen-year-old’s groin four times.
A man is suing the NYPD for his wrongful conviction for attempted murder after spending 26 years behind bars. NYPD officers arrested the man, a Dominican named Norberto Peets, after failing to track down leads and descriptions of another suspect, a Black man. Officers arrested Peets, who had no criminal record, after passing him on the sidewalk.
The Memphis Police Department’s clearance rate fell from 22% to 18% in 2022 despite a $234 million budget that makes up 39% of the city’s overall spending.
Support is growing among Illinois state lawmakers for a bill that would require the presence of an attorney when police interrogate minors. Calls for the bill come on the heels of a video revealing a detective in suburban Chicago manipulating a 15-year-old into falsely confessing to shooting a dollar store clerk. Police cleared the 15-year-old only after members of his baseball team came forward. The boy was with the baseball team and in another town.
In Reason, J.D. Tuccille looks at how FBI agents have avoided accountability after abusing the no-fly list and other watchlists.
Video caught Delaware state troopers fabricating charges against a man after he flipped them off and warned other drivers of a speed trap.
Five Rankin County, Mississippi, sheriff deputies and a Richland, Mississippi, police officer have pleaded guilty in federal court for raiding a house without a warrant and torturing its two occupants, Michael Jenkins and Eddie Terrell Parker. The deputies and the officer, who called themselves the “Goon Squad,” restrained the men before beating, tasing, and threatening to rape Jenkins and Parker. The officers then fired multiple rounds in the air before a deputy forced his gun into Jenkins’ mouth and fired. Jenkins miraculously survived but sustained permanent injuries, with the bullet shattering his jaw, shredding his neck, and lacerating his tongue. Deputies forced a dildo found at the home into Parker’s mouth and threatened to anally rape the two men before Jenkins defecated himself in fear. The officers then poured alcohol, milk, and chocolate syrup on the men before ordering them to strip naked and shower. Previously, two of the deputies involved had knelt for ten minutes on a 29-year-old Black man’s neck as he begged for air, killing him in front of his mother. A grand jury declined to indict the officers for that man’s death a year before they brutally attacked Jenkins and Parker.
Three Antioch Police Department officers face federal charges in Northern California after using non-lethal 40mm impact rounds to shoot unarmed suspects. One of the officers charged, Morteza Amiri, also allegedly set his K-9 on at least 28 suspects in a 3-year period. The officers even memorialized their abuse, taking pictures of the K-9 bites and saving the fired 40mm munitions. Texts shows that the officers bragged about “violating civil rights” and called Black residents “gorillas.”
The Ohio Coalition to End Qualified Immunity is struggling to get on the Ohio November 2024 ballot with a constitutional amendment to end qualified immunity. Republican Attorney General and former county prosecutor David Yost rejected the group’s language for the amendment. Yost has previously rejected the group’s proposed language twice before. He has also denied another group’s proposed amendment on qualified immunity three times.
The Los Angeles City Council approved nearly an additional billion dollars in funding over four years to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Alexandria Police Department Officer Jim Lewis faces charges for falsifying the value of stolen goods to bump misdemeanor arrests to felonies.
A police officer in Shelbyville, Tennessee, shot a dog multiple times after knocking on its owner’s door at 4 AM as he responded to a call about kids knocking on doors and ringing doorbells.
After an Arkansas woman called 911, a responding officer shot at her Pomeranian dog, missed, and mistakenly shot the woman in the leg. The officer then claimed the woman’s bullet wound was a scratch from her dog.
A lawsuit by the Colorado ACLU alleges that in 2020, the FBI paid an informant $20,000 to bait BLM protestors in Denver into breaking the law. The informant only convinced a single protestor to buy a gun (with FBI money), which led to a probationary sentence. [Note from Radley: Trevor Aaronson, the author of the linked piece, also tells this crazy story in much more detail in the first season of the Alphabet Boys podcast. Definitely worth your time.]
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Jails and prisons
Florida prison officials confiscated copies of a local newspaper from an incarcerated subscriber, asserting the paper’s “Celebrity Cypher” word puzzle violated the Florida Department of Corrections’ prohibition on “publications . . . written in code.” The Florida Department of Corrections now prohibits over 20,000 reading materials in its prisons.
Missouri wants to execute Marcellus Williams despite exculpatory DNA testing that excludes Williams from DNA found on the knife used to commit the murder. Twenty-five years ago, a jury convicted Williams for the murder of St. Louis-Post Dispatch reporter Felicia Gayle after prosecutors offered two unreliable witnesses money and relief from their own charges in exchange for incriminating testiony. In 2017, former Governor Eric Greitens postponed Williams’ execution just hours before it was took take place. He then appointed a commission of retired judges to review Williams’ case. In June, Governor Mike Parson inexplicably disbanded that commission and set Williams’ execution date.
Bolts looks at the string of fatalities at the East Baton Rouge Parish jail and the parish sheriff’s corruptly inspired bid to expand the facility.
Institute of Justice attorneys Jared McClain and Andrew Ward write in The Daily Beast about how the government continues to punish formerly incarcerated people by denying them access to federal programs. McClain’s and Ward’s client, Altimont Mark Wilks, runs a corner store in Hagerstown, Maryland. Though about 20 percent of Wilks’s customers are eligible for SNAP benefits, a prior conviction prohibits him from accepting SNAP payments.
In an extraordinary move, a federal judge is considering putting Rikers Island under federal receivership.
Tennessee adds yet another hurdle for felons trying to reclaim their right to vote — they now must first seek local judge’s order and pay a fine.
Massachusetts may stop charging incarcerated persons to communicate with the outside world.
After 31 years, Carlton Lewis is free in New York after a wrongful conviction built on testimony by an incentivized witness, a false confession, and hair microscopy. Police interrogated Lewis without an attorney present after taking him from his home at 12:15 AM. Lewis’ confession was vastly different from an earlier statement he’d given denying involvement in the crime, which police had already corroborated.
Free speech and the First Amendment
The Arkansas Department of Education told high school teachers two days before classes started that the Department would not recognize advance placement African-American history classes for credit to graduate, nor would it pay for students to take the AP exam in May, as it does for other AP courses.
Florida banned AP Psychology from its schools because of content on sexual orientation and gender identity, which are now prohibited by state law.
US District Court Judge Brantley Starr ordered three senior Southwest Airlines attorneys to attend “religious-liberty training” with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a far-right Christian legal advocacy group.
First Amendment advocate and alt-media Backpage founder James Larkin took his own life a week before federal prosecutors were set to try Larkin for running the Backpage site. Larkin founded a host of alt-media publications and dedicated his life to holding abusive law enforcement agencies and other government officials accountable. His publications were among the first to report on and challenge notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The New Times, one of Larkin’s publications, also helped invalidate Arizona’s abortion ban in 1971 after the paper ran an ad that helped women in Arizona travel to California for abortions. The paper was also once raided by a Maricopa DA, and fought a subpoena to obtain the identities of people who commented on its website. Larkins was indicted because his classified ads website, Backpage, was popular with independent sex workers. Federal prosecutors indicted Larkin for violating the Travel Act by facilitating prostitution, despite other federal prosecutors admitting that Larkin and his business partner Michael Lacey consistently cooperated with law enforcement to combat sex trafficking, and took measures to rid Backpage of illegal content. Larkin was 74 years old. He was survived by a wife and six children.
Nearly the entire Marion, Kansas, Police Department in Kansas raided a local small-town newspaper after a complaint by a local restaurant owner, Kari Newell. The newspaper, the Marion County Record, had also been actively investigating the police chief, Gideon Cody, who had retired from his previous job after facing accusations of sexual misconduct. Officers seized cell phones, computers, and other devices. The paper received a tip about Newell being previously arrested for driving under the influence, which the paper found suspicious and turned over to police. Newell threatened the newspaper at a city council meeting the same week as the raid. Marion police officers then raided the newspaper. The newspaper’s co-owner, Joan Meyer, died day after the raid from what her son says was shock over the polcie action. The lead prosecutor in Marion has since returned all of the newspaper’s devices, concluding that police had insufficient evidence to support a search warrant. The Wichita Eagle has since revealed that the magistrate who signed the warrant, Judge Laura Viar, has a history of DUI arrests.
The Drug War
A police officer and former police officer are dead after a no-knock raid in Ville Patte, Louisiana. The former officer, Sistrane Edwards, had been a cop for 13 years. He was also a veteran. His wife Cynthia Soileauis in critical condition and will likely never speak again. Soileau’s son, 23-year-old Vonteek Anderson, has been charged with first degree murder of a law enforcement officer for firing a gun at police during the raid. The family had recently moved after a violent robbery and say Anderson didn’t know the raiding officers were police.
The Republican candidates for president continue their mind-boggling endorsement of bombing Mexico to fight drug cartels.
HHS recommends marijuana be reclassified as a Schedule III drug.
Cops continue to confuse irrational panic attacks about fentanyl exposure for “the effects of fentanyl exposure.” And media outlets continue to parrot their nonsense.
Twenty-five years ago, Dontae Spivey was convicted of murder in part because of police testimony at trial that claimed officers saw Spivey discard a sweatshirt and hat found near the murder weapon. DNA was inconclusive on each, but Maryland prosecutors argued Spivey wore and threw the sweatshirt and hat away, which they said showed consciousness of guilt. Now, more advanced DNA testing has excluded Spivey as the source of the DNA on the hat and sweatshirt. A Baltimore Circuit Judge has agreed to a new hearing.
The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld a former death row inmate’s conviction despite the prosecution’s illegal suppression of evidence that may have been grounds for reasonable doubt at trial.
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit allowed Cristal Starling to challenge $8,000 worth of seized assets, reversing a lower court ruling. Police never charged Starling with a crime, but raided her apartment and seized $8,000 in cash after suspecting her then-boyfriend of drug dealing. Starling was saving money for her small business. She planned to contest the seizure, but missed a deadline.
Here’s a really a useful guide to every state supreme court.
A Fifth Circuit panel ruled 2-1 that Mississippi’s lifetime ban against voting for certain felons is unconstitutional.
An agent with the Secret Service sent an email in September 2020 calling himself the Secret Service’s “unofficial liaison to the Oath Keepers (inching towards official).” The agent also shared Oath Keeper leader Stewart Rhodes’s phone number.
At The Bulwark, Joseph Bouchard warns of the right’s troubling embrace of El Salvador’s President and admitted autocrat Nayib Bukele. As Bouchard writes, conservatives seem to love Bukele not in spite of the fact that he governs through fear, mass incarceration, and an ever-growing list of due process and human rights violations, but because of those things.
Transcripts revealed attorneys for Twitter/X tried to impede Special Counsel Jack Smith’s search warrant for Trump’s Twitter data. The exchange stands in stark contrast to Elon Musk’s capitulation to requests for user data from authoritarian governments.
The 2023 U.S. murder rate is on pace for a historic drop.
Republican lawmakers in 20 states are pushing bills that would require teachers to out LGBT students to their parents.
Here’s a staggering report on driving suspensions in Ohio. The state suspends 1 in 50 licenses of people over the age of 18. Many cannot afford to pay fines for their license reinstatement, totaling $332 million in fees among Ohioans with suspensions.
This week in dog history:
From Newspapers.com: The tale of Bummer and Lazerus
The L.A. Skyline