Chris Brown: Guilty as charged

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Invoking his constitutional right as a celebrity to be slapped on the wrist for any and everything, Chris Brown pleaded guilty to assault on Barbadian songstress Rihanna in a California Superior Court. According to People, “Brown, 20, will be sentenced to five years probation and 180 days of community labor to be served in Virginia. He will also complete a year of domestic violence classes, and pay fines. In exchange, he pleaded guilty to felony assault by means likely to cause great bodily injury.

“Mr. Brown, I think it’s commendable that you took responsibility for your conduct,” said Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg. Brown also was ordered to stay at least 50 yards away from Rihanna – except at industry events, when it’s 10 yards – despite a request from Rihanna’s lawyer that the pair be allowed in the same place at the same time. If he violates probation, Brown will face four years in jail. His formal sentencing is set for Aug. 5, when the court will drop a second charge of making criminal threats.”

Sparing batterers like Brown from real punishment for their brutality undermines the concept of equal justice under law and insults millions female victims of partner abuse. It is all the more galling for a female jurist to have agreed to this travesty.

Taking real responsibility means doing the time, not some B.S. community service.

Mychal Bell, Jena 6 teen, shoots himself

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Hat Tip: By Kevin McGill, Associated Press

Hat Tip: BET.COM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — One of the central figures in the 2007 Jena Six civil rights case never gave up pursuing his football career, even after his well-publicized run-ins with the law.

Mychal Bell, an 18-year-old high school running back, clung to the hope that he could earn a college football scholarship. Then came another legal scrape this Christmas Eve.

After news broke of his arrest on a shoplifting charge, Bell shot himself in the chest Monday with a .22-caliber handgun. He remained hospitalized Tuesday but police said his chest wound was not life-threatening.

“When it was broadcast that he was charged with shoplifting he just felt that the whole year had been wasted and that he had worked all of that time for nothing,” said Louis Scott, who represented Bell in the case where Bell and five other black teenagers were charged in the 2006 beating of a white classmate.

Bell’s grandmother, Rosie Simmons, and mother, Melissa Bell, told police that “Mychal had made comments over the past two days that, because of the current media attention he had because of the shoplifting arrest, he didn’t feel like he could live anymore,” Monroe Police Lt. Jeff Harris said, reading from a police report.

Bell and the other members of the “Jena Six” once faced attempted murder charges in the beating at Jena High School, in north central Louisiana’s Lasalle Parish. The charges for all the defendants were eventually reduced. But the severity of the original charges brought widespread criticism and eventually led more than 20,000 people to converge in September 2007 on the tiny town of Jena for a major civil rights march.

After being sentenced to 18 months following his guilty plea to juvenile charges, Bell moved from Jena to Monroe, where he was in foster care. He was released from state supervision on Dec. 4, said Bill Furlow, a spokesman for Reed Walters, the district attorney for LaSalle Parish.

A football star at Jena High until the Barker beating, Bell had hoped to play for Monroe’s Carroll High School, where he is on track to graduate in the spring. But the Louisiana High School Athletic Association wouldn’t grant him a fifth year of eligibility to play. Bell had spent 10 months in prison awaiting trial after his 2006 arrest in the beating case.

“He had kept his grades up and he had worked out the whole year even though he couldn’t play. He had dealt with the fact that the state athletic association would not let him play high school ball,” Bell’s lawyer, Louis Scott said Tuesday.

It was unclear whether his dreams of a college football career were realistic. According to Scott, family members believed Bell was having encouraging discussions with the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

The school’s director of football operations, Peter Martin, said in an e-mail that the school had not evaluated Bell as a prospective student-athlete and would not speculate on his potential at the college level.

Police said Bell’s Christmas Eve arrest came after he allegedly tried to steal several shirts and a pair of jeans from a department store and fled when a security guard and off-duty police officer tried to detain him. After they found him hiding under a car, Bell “swung his arms wildly” and one of his elbows struck the security guard with a glancing blow, according to a police report. He was freed on $1,300 bond.

Scott said he believed the arrest likely resulted from a misunderstanding.

“I would be very surprised if he was shoplifting,” Scott said. “I had seen him working out every day even though he knew he wasn’t going to be able to play high school football.”

Monday’s shooting was reported at 7:40 p.m. According to the police report, Bell was staying at his grandmother’s home and his mother was visiting at the time. Melissa Bell told police she and Simmons heard a gunshot coming from Mychal’s room. They found him on his bed, wounded in the chest. It was not clear Tuesday who owned the gun.

O.J. Simpson: guilty of stupidity

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Hat Tip: By Linda Deutsch, Associated Press

Las Vegas, NV – O.J. Simpson, who went from American sports idol to celebrity-in-exile after he was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and a friend, was found guilty Friday of robbing two sports-memorabilia dealers at gunpoint in a Las Vegas hotel room.

The 61-year-old former football star could spend the rest of his life in prison after he is sentenced Dec. 5.

A weary and somber Simpson released a heavy sigh as the charges were read in rapid fire by the clerk in Clark County District Court. He was immediately taken into custody.

The Hall of Fame football star was found guilty of kidnapping, armed robbery and 10 other charges for gathering up five men a year ago and storming into a room at hotel-casino, where the group seized several game balls, plaques and photos. Prosecutors said two of the men with him were armed; one of them said he brought a gun at Simpson’s request.

Simpson’s co-defendant, Clarence “C.J.” Stewart, 54, also was found guilty on all charges and taken into custody.

Simpson showed little emotion as officers handcuffed him and walked him out of the courtroom.

His sister, Carmelita Durio, sobbed behind him in the arms of Simpson’s friend, Tom Scotto. As spectators left the courtroom, Durio collapsed and paramedics were called, according to court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer.

The jurors made no eye contact with the defendants as the entered and each of them answered firmly when asked if “this was their individual verdict.”

Judge Jackie Glass made no comment other than to thank the jury for its service and to deny motions for the defendants to be released on bail.

She refused to give the lawyers extended time to file a motion for new trial, which under Nevada law must be filed within seven days.

The attorneys said they needed time to submit a voluminous record, but she rejected that.

“I’ve sat through the trial,” Glass said. “If you want a motion for new trial, send me something.”

The verdict came 13 years after Simpson was cleared of murder in Los Angeles in one of the most sensational trials of the 20th century.

From the beginning, Simpson and lawyers argued the incident in Las Vegas was not a robbery; instead, they said, he was trying to reclaim mementos that had been stolen from him. He said he did not ask anyone to bring a gun and did not see any guns.

The defense portrayed Simpson as a victim of shady characters who wanted to make a buck off his famous name, and police officers who saw his arrest as an opportunity to “get” him and avenge his acquittal.

Prosecutors said Simpson’s ownership of the memorabilia was irrelevant; it was still a crime to try to take things by force.

“When they went into that room and forced the victims to the far side of the room, pulling out guns and yelling, `Don’t let anybody out of here!’ — six very large people detaining these two victims in the room with the intent to take property through force or violence from them — that’s kidnapping,” prosecutor David Roger said.

Kidnapping is punishable by five years to life in prison. Armed robbery carries a mandatory sentence of at least two years behind bars, and could bring as much as 30 years.

Simpson, who now lives in Miami, did not testify, but was heard on a recording of the confrontation, screaming that the dealers had stolen his property.

“Don’t let nobody out of this room,” he declared and told the other men to scoop up his items, which included a photo of Simpson with former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Four other men initially charged in the case struck plea bargains that saved them from potential prison sentences in return for their testimony. Some of them had criminal records or were compromised in some way. One, for example, was an alleged pimp who testified he had a revelation from God telling him to take a plea bargain.

Memorabilia dealer Thomas Riccio, who arranged and secretly recorded the confrontation in the hotel room, said he netted $210,000 on the tapes from the media. He received immunity, and his recordings became the heart of the prosecution case.

Similarly, minutes after the Sept. 13, 2007, confrontation, one of the alleged victims, sports-memorabilia dealer Alfred Beardsley, was calling news outlets, and the other, Bruce Fromong, spoke of getting “big money” from the incident.

Simpson’s past haunted the case. Las Vegas police officers were heard in the recordings chuckling over Simpson’s misfortune and crowing that if Los Angeles couldn’t “get” him, they would. And the judge told jurors they had to put aside Simpson’s earlier case.

Simpson’s lawyers also expressed fears during jury selection that people who believed he got away with murder a decade ago might see this case as a chance to right a wrong.

As a result, an usually large pool of 500 potential jurors was called, and they were given a 26-page questionnaire. Half were almost instantly eliminated after expressing strong feelings that he should have been convicted of murder.

 

If Troy Davis Dies, blame the Clintons

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If anyone has sought to confuse you or just plain insult your intelligence by intimating that the United States has entered into a “post-racial” age of enlightenment, you have this Skeptical Brotha’s permission to curse them out so hard that they beg your forgiveness.  All one really has to do, if the aforemetioned is unappealing, is just say two words: Troy Davis.

I am primitive enough to actually believe in the death penalty despite knowing full well that the way in which it is administered discriminates against people on the basis of race and class.  I am also old fashioned enough to want any would be victimizers of me or my family to pay the ultimate price. 

The case against Georgia Death Row Inmate Troy Davis, 38, changes all that for me and it has me reconsidering  the fundamentally corrosive nature of prolonged righteous rage brought on by the machinery of death.  The family of the murdered police officer  is prevented from having closure and so is the family of Troy Davis who are convinced of his innocence.

Anger and rage are the essential building blocks of any activism for good causes, but they are also the essential tools of the demagogue.

This is where Bill and Hillary Clinton come in.  In the run up to the 1992 New Hampshire primary, Bill Clinton left the campaign trail and the questions surrounding the revelation of his affair wth Gennifer Flowers to execute a brain damaged brotha, Ricky Ray Rector. 

Christopher Hitchens was blunt:

I disliked Clinton because of the Ricky Ray Rector business. He left New Hampshire to go back to Arkansas and execute a man who was essentially unfit to plead–he certainly didn’t understand the charges against him,  would have met any ordinary definition of clemency.  I don’t think the Chinese execute people who are mentally disabled.  Rector was lobotomized. And it was clear that Clinton did what he did to send a racist signal.  It was as clear as it could possibly be.  The week of Gennifer Flowers he kept saying, “Why don’t we talk about the issues?”  So I asked him this: “Isn’t executing a mentally retarded black man for votes a clearer indication of what your morality is than what you do with blondes on the side?” Clinton turned his back on me. Walked away.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Clintons dipped into the well of racism against Barack Obama having deliberately used the unjustified execution of a black man to make a naked racial appeal to whitefolks back in 1992. 

Once elected, Bill and Hillary Clinton continued turning their backs on justice.  Bill signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

According to Amnesty International:

President Bill Clinton signed the AEDPA into law on 24 April 1996. “I have long sought to streamline federal appeals for convicted criminals sentenced to the death penalty,” he said at the signing; “For too long, and in too many cases, endless death row appeals have stood in the way of justice being served.”  He added that “from now on, criminals sentenced to death for their vicious crimes will no longer be able to use endless appeals to delay their sentences.”

The Act placed new, unprecedented restrictions on prisioners raising claims of constitutional violations.  It imposed severe time limits on the raising of constitutional claims, restricted the federal courts ability to review state court decisions, placed limits on federal courts granting and conducting evidentiary hearings, and prohibited “successive” appeals except in very narrow circumstances.

As one leading lawyer has said “The provisions of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 restricting the power of federal courts to correct constitutional error in criminal cases represent a decision tat results are more important than process, that finality is more important than fairness, and that proceeding with executions is more important than determining whether convictions and sentences were obtained fairly and reliably.”

Under the AEDPA, once Troy Davis’ conviction and death sentence had been upheld by the Georgia Courts, the possibility of relief in the federal courts was curtailed. Federal relief was only permissible if the decision of a state court had “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved in an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.”  This deferential “reasonableness” standard represented “a remarkable departure from the traditional role of federal courts…to declare what the law is.”

The amazing thing about the case against Troy Davis is that there is literally no case.  There is no physical evidence at all. No DNA, no murder weapon, no fingerprints, no footprints. Nothing.  All there was against the brotha was the perjured testimony of coerced witnesses, 7 of whom now say in signed affidavits that one of their number was the real killer and that the combined effects of sloppy police work, prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, and their fear of the real killer, produced this twisted and tragic result.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles delayed this execution for over a year to supposedly investigate the claims of innocence here thoroughly and completely. They still came to the same racist result as the orignial jury and every court of review.

At the end of the line and with state court appeals exhausted, executive clemency denied, and all federal appeals over, they appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court one last time. The Supremes delayed the execution until next Monday.  While a six-day repreive is cause for celebration for some, I am not hopeful.   A Supreme Court that would essentially overturn Brown v. Board of Education is a Supreme Court that will come up with some convoluted, racist rationale for the execution of the innocent.   Only time will tell.

The only thing I know for sure is that if Troy Davis dies, you can blame the Clintons for setting him up and sabotaging his legitimate claim of innocence.

Officers in Sean Bell case acquitted

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Hat Tip: By Michael Wilson, NY Times

Three detectives were found not guilty Friday on all charges in the shooting death of Sean Bell, who died in a hail of 50 police bullets outside a club in Jamaica, Queens, in November 2006. The verdict prompted calls for calm from the mayor, angry promises of protests by those speaking for the Bell family and expressions of relief by the detectives.

Detective Michael Oliver, who fired 31 bullets the night of the shooting and faced manslaughter charges, said Justice Arthur J. Cooperman had made a “fair and just decision.”

Justice Cooperman delivered the verdict in State Supreme Court at 9 a.m. Giving his reasoning, he said many of the prosecution’s witnesses, including Mr. Bell’s friends and the two wounded victims, were simply not believable. “At times, the testimony of those witnesses just didn’t make sense,” the judge said.

Several supporters of Mr. Bell stormed out of the courtroom, and a few small scuffles followed outside the courthouse. By midafternoon, there were no suggestions of any broader unrest around the city. Mr. Bell’s family and fiancée left without making any comments and drove to visit his grave at the Nassau Knolls Cemetery and Memorial Park in Port Washington.

The verdict comes 17 months to the day since the Nov. 25, 2006, shooting of Mr. Bell, 23, and his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, outside the Club Kalua in Jamaica, Queens, hours before Mr. Bell was to be married.

It was delivered in a packed courtroom. Mr. Bell’s family sat silently as Justice Cooperman spoke from the bench. Behind them, a woman was heard to ask, “Did he just say, ‘Not guilty?’ ” Detective Oliver and the two other defendants, Detectives Gescard F. Isnora and Marc Cooper, were escorted out a side doorway as court adjourned.

The acquittals do not necessarily mean the officers’ legal battles are over. Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the three men could still face disciplinary action from the Police Department, but that he had been asked to wait on any internal measures until the United States attorney’s office determines whether or not it would pursue federal charges against them.

The seven-week trial, which ended on April 14, was heard by Justice Cooperman after the defendants waived their right to a jury, a strategy some lawyers called risky at the time. But it clearly paid off.

Before rendering his verdict, Justice Cooperman ran through a narrative of the chilly November evening when Mr. Bell died, and concluded “the police response with respect to each defendant was not found to be criminal.”

“The people have not proved beyond a reasonable doubt” that each defendant was not justified in shooting, the judge said, quickly adding that the men were not guilty of all of the eight counts, five felonies and three misdemeanors against them.

Roughly 30 court officers stood by, around the courtroom and in the aisles. At one point as he read, Justice Cooperman paused to insist that a crying baby be taken from the courtroom. Immediately a young woman who appeared to be among the Bell contingent got up and left with a baby.

The Rev. Al Sharpton accompanied Bell family members to the cemetery, and said later that they will join him on Saturday at a rally protesting the verdict. He said he had spoken to the governor and the mayor, and that he believed a federal civil rights prosecution of the officers would be appropriate.

“This verdict is one round down, but the fight is far from over,” Mr. Sharpton said.

He promised protests “to demonstrate to the federal government that New Yorkers will not take this abortion of justice lying down.” He even raised the possibility of taking protests directly to Justice Cooperman’s home.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called for calm. “There are no winners in a trial like this,” he said. “An innocent man lost his life, a bride lost her groom, two daughters lost their father and a mother and a father lost their son.”

The mayor continued: “Judge Cooperman’s responsibility, however, was to decide the case based on the evidence presented in the courtroom. America is a nation of laws, and though not everyone will agree with the verdicts and opinions issued by the courts, we accept their authority.”

He added: “There will be opportunities for peaceful dissent and potentially for further legal recourse — those are the rights we enjoy in a democratic nation. We don’t expect violence or law-breaking, nor is there any place for it.”

A subdued Queens district attorney, Richard A. Brown, whose office prosecuted the case, said at a news conference: “Judge Cooperman discharged his responsibilities fairly and consciously under the law. I accept his verdict, and I urge all fair-minded individuals in this city to do the same.”

Commissioner Kelly, speaking in Brooklyn, would not comment on the verdict itself. But he did say that while there were no reports of unrest in response to the acquittals, the Police Department was ready should it occur.

“We have prepared, we have done some drills and some practice with appropriate units and personnel if there is any violence, but again, we don’t anticipate violence,” Mr. Kelly said. “There have been no problems. Obviously there will be some people who are disappointed with the verdict. We understand that.”

Detectives Isnora and Oliver had faced the most charges: first- and second-degree manslaughter, with a possible sentence of 25 years in prison; felony assault, first and second degree; and a misdemeanor, reckless endangerment, with a possible one-year sentence. Detective Oliver also faced a second count of first-degree assault. Detective Cooper was charged only with two counts of reckless endangerment.

All three of the detectives, none of whom took the stand during the trial, spoke at the offices of their union on Friday afternoon. “I’ve just started my life back,” Detective Cooper said.

During the 26 days of testimony, the prosecution sought to show, with an array of 50 witnesses, that the shooting was the act of a frightened group of disorganized police officers who began their shift that night hoping to arrest a prostitute or two and, in suspecting Mr. Bell and his friends of possessing a gun, quickly got in over their heads.

“We ask police to risk their lives to protect ours,” said an assistant district attorney, Charles A. Testagrossa, in his closing arguments. “Not to risk our lives to protect their own.”

The defense, through weeks of often heated cross-examinations, their own witnesses and the words of the detectives themselves, portrayed the shooting as the tragic end to a nonetheless justified confrontation, with Detective Isnora having what it called solid reasons to believe he was the only thing standing between Mr. Bell’s car and a drive-by shooting around the corner.

Several witnesses testified that they heard talk of guns in an argument between Mr. Bell and a stranger, Fabio Coicou, outside Kalua, an argument, the defense claimed, that was fueled by bravado and Mr. Bell’s intoxicated state. Defense lawyers pointed their fingers at Mr. Guzman, who, they said, in shouting for Mr. Bell to drive away when Detective Isnora approached, may have instigated his death.

Wesley Snipes gets played

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Hat Tip: Yahoo, Associated Press

Wesley Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison on tax charges Thursday, a victory for prosecutors who sought to make an example of the action star by aggressively pursuing the maximum penalty.Snipes’ lawyers had spent much of the day in court offering dozens of letters from family members, friends even fellow actors Woody Harrelson and Denzel Washington attesting to the good character of the “Blade” star and asking for leniency.

 

 

They argued he should get only probation because his three convictions were all misdemeanors and the actor had no previous criminal record.  But U.S. District Judge William Terrell Hodges said Snipes exhibited a “history of contempt over a period of time” for U.S. tax laws, and granted prosecutors the three year sentence they requested one year for each of Snipes’ convictions of willfully failing to file a tax return.  “In my mind these are serious crimes, albeit misdemeanors,” Hodges said.

 

 

Snipes apologized while reading from a written statement for his “costly mistakes,” but never mentioned the word taxes.  “I am an idealistic, naive, passionate, truth-seeking, spiritually motivated artist, unschooled in the science of law and finance,” Snipes said.

 

 

Snipes said his wealth and celebrity attracted “wolves and jackals like flies are attracted to meat.” He called himself “well-intentioned, but miseducated.”

 

Snipes was the highest-profile criminal tax target in years, and prosecutors called for a heavy sentence to deter others from trying to obstruct the IRS. The government alleged Snipes made at least $13.8 million for the years in question and owed $2.7 million in back taxes.

 

Snipes was acquitted in February of five additional charges, including felony tax fraud and conspiracy. Snipes’ co-defendants, Douglas P. Rosile and Eddie Ray Kahn, were convicted on both those counts. Kahn, who refused to defend himself in court, was sentenced to 10 years, while Rosile received 54 months. Both will serve three years of supervised release. Snipes will serve one year of supervised release.

 

Snipes and Rosile remain free and will be notified when they are to surrender to authorities.

 

Hillary N’ the Hood

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Hillary was in the hood yesterday. Apparently, she was there thowin’ gang signs, drinkin 40’s, and schmoozin’ wit her peeps at the Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Compton, California. I can officially say that her campaign of deceptive rapprochment has begun.

Surrounded by an exclusively black cast of characters not ashamed to be seen with her, they plied her with tacky trinkets like the t-shirt and cap proffered above. She returned the gesture by saying that she would focus on assisting brotha’s in finding jobs by instituting some eco-liberal “green collar” jobs program and funding a program to transition ex-cons to work. “A lot of our young people, disproportionately young people of color, are in the prison system and they don’t belong there. They are non-violent offenders.” She said to rapturous applause.

Interesting thought since it was her husband’s 1994 crime bill which locked most of em’ up in the first place. Miz Hillary left that part out. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice called Massa Bill the “Incarceration President.”

According to the Center, on the eve of the inauguaral of Dubya, “When William Jefferson Clinton took office in 1993, he was embraced by some as a moderate change from the previous twelve years of tough on crime Republican administrations. Now, eight years later, the latest criminal justice statistics show that it was actually Democratic President Bill Clinton who implemented arguably the most punitive platform on crime in the last two decades. In fact, “tough on crime” policies passed during the Clinton Administration’s tenure resulted in the largest increases in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history.”

What does that mean for coloredfolk? Well, according to the center, it meant nothing good.“While everyone is affected by the nation’s quadrupling of the prison population, the African American community has borne the brunt of the nation’s incarceration boom. From 1980 to 1992, the African American incarceration rate increased by an average of 138.4 per 100,000 per year. Still, despite a more than doubling of the African American incarceration rate in the 12 years prior to President Clinton’s term in office, the African American incarceration rate continued to increase by an average rate of 100.4 per 100,000 per year. In total, between 1980 and 1999, the incarceration rate for African Americans more than tripled from 1156 per 100,000, to 3,620 per 100,000.”

Faced with a horrendous drop in her poll numbers in the black community, a result of defending her billionaire minstrel’s defamation of Barack Obama, she’s backtracking to stress that she is not anti-black at all. We just imagined it. The Clintons have always been pro-active on black issues. That’s the drivel Bob Johnson was pushing last week. The record says something different and its high time that we recognized it.