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.

 

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.

Fox News Obama propaganda backfires

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Brian Kilmeade became frustrated in his admirable and futile attempts to break through the propaganda talking points on Fox and Friends because he’s delusional enough to believe that he works for a real news organization. Bless his Heart.

After a week of round the clock racist programming against Barack Obama, surely he understands that he works for a fascist propaganda channel whose agenda and purpose for being is to be anything but “fair and balanced.”

Storming off the set in protest shattered the chipper façade of insidiously racist chatter and revealed Fox’s malevolent agenda for what it is. Steve Doocy and Gretchen Carlson tried to play the shit off but Brian left the malevolent clown and his Stepford wife sidekick looking defensive and crazy. For that, Brian Kilmeade is to be commended.

We don’t often see dissention in the ranks at Fixed News and so it came as a pleasant surprise. Chris Wallace’s comment, “I have been watching the show since 6 o’clock this morning when I got up, and it seems to me that two hours of Obama bashing on this “typical white person” remark is somewhat excessive, and frankly, I think you’re somewhat distorting what Obama had to say,” was just the icing on the cake.

The idea that Steve and Gretchen give a damn about Mrs. Dunham, Obama’s grandmother, is patently ridiculous. As they say later in the program, they really just work off of “talking points” probably issued from the bowels of Hell, the purpose of which is to poison as many minds as possible against anything and anybody progressive.

As they maliciously continue pushing the Barack disses his white grandma meme and quote Obama calling his grandmother “a typical white person,” out of context, hopefully they’ll also play a clip of Brian Kilmeade storming off the set. Juxtaposing the quote and the protest is the only way in my mind that these bastards can ever claim to be “fair and balanced.”

 

Giuliani’s Christmas Ad (Revised)

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Copying front runner Mike Huckabee and sinking in national polls like a stone, a desperate Rudy Giuliani came out with his own holiday ad to deceive and reassure gullible Republicans.   

Rudy: There a many things I wish for this Holiday Season.  I wish for peace with strength, secure borders, a government that spends less than it takes in, lower taxes for our business and families, and I really hope that all the presidential candidates can just get along.  

Santa:  Ho, Ho, Ho, I was with ya right up until that last one. 

Rudy:   Can’t have everything. I’m Rudy Giuliani and I approved this message. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays.   

This is the parody ad I would have him release.  

Rudy:  There are many things I wish for this Holiday Season.  I wish for another 9/11 to scare the American people into voting for me, a government that spies on its own people, huge tax loopholes for the rich, and I really hope that before Bernie Kerik goes to jail, his mob friends will help me rub out the smug prick with perfect hair, Mitt Romney. 

Judi, the social climbing homewrecker: I wanna be First Lady and America’s Queen. 

Black Santa:  Ho, I was with ya right up until that last one.  

Rudy:  You black bastard, I’ll teach you to never say everything that pops into your head to a white woman.

Rudy’s security team shoots Santa in the back 41 times and calls it justifiable homicide because Black Santa “fit the description.” 

Rudy:  I’m Rudy Giuliani and I enthusiastically approved this gross display of racist police state fascism.  Merry Christmas. Seig Heil.

Sense and Sensibility

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DWB - Driving While Black or Brown by Carlos N. Molina  

Sense and Sensibility is not only a great work of English Literature, it’s also supposed to be the strongest quality of all good law enforcement officers.   Apparently, nobody in the Carolina locality I was driving in last night got the memo. 

As a club member in good standing, I am one of those Negroes that drive around with his brights on because the driver side low beam done went out and my money is funny.  I defy any mofo to challenge me on this issue. 

Ain’t nobody gonna tell me nothin.’My car is my momma’s name but I makes the payments. What?  Her credit is better than mine is.  Hell. You betta not say nothin.’  Anyway, the Po Po turns around and runs up on me like a runaway slave.   I HATE THAT S***, Y’all hear me.  I truly hated it, with two snaps up, honey.   My name ain’t Kunta Kinte. And, it sho’ ain’t what my license say. 

I mumbled a prayer to the one who is able to keep us from falling.    “Father, I stretch my hands to thee.  No other help I know.  If you don’t pull this cop off me, into a jail cell shall I go.”   

The driving while black merry-go-round is as tired as O.J. Simpson’s guardian angel.  My doctor won’t permit me to discuss the number of times I’ve been stopped for ABSOLUTELY  NOTHING!!!!!!!!!!!  Ain’t no dead white woman at my crib and I don’t drive a white bronco.   Y’all feel me? 

He done hung behind me for a little bit, enough to run my plate and move the Hell on.  What he doin back there? Is he solving a crossword puzzle or flirting with the dispatcher. Eric Benet lost interest in Halle Berry quicker than this.   

The fool up ahead don’t recognize the Po Po and is stopping waaaaay beyond the white line at every red light.   “God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, keep the fool ahead of me forever behind the white line I pray.”  

Too late.   

I’m off the hook.              

To the Jena 6: Just hold on, change is coming

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Norman Hutchin’s song, “A move of God,” has been in my head all day.

To Mychal Bell,  Robert Bailey, Jr, Theo Shaw, Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, and the other unnamed young brotha, just hold on, change is coming.

“I feel a breakthrough coming your way, it’s a mighty move of God, it’s gonna change your day. With signs and wonders, miracles to perform, God is gonna bless you for just holding on.”

“Just hold on, a change is coming, feel it in the air, it’s in the atmosphere. Just hold on, a change is coming, a move of God is on the way.”

“You’ve been expecting a change in your life, looking for your midnight to turn to sunshine. It’s gonna happen, you wait and see, all things are possible to them that believe.”

“Just hold on, a change is coming, feel it in the air, it’s in the atmosphere. Just hold on, a change is coming…A move of God is on the way.”

Thousands of chanting demonstrators filled the streets of this little Louisiana town Thursday. It's not about black and white. It's about right and wrong. I would like to see these young men set free,

We should have progressed past this kind of unequal treatment based on race; however, we clearly are not. The outpouring of community support in the black community and the dearth of support from others is quite telling.   Katrina became an enduring symbol of neglect and racial indifference and Jena, Louisiana has provided the nation with another.  

There is nothing particularly unique about the disproportionate felony charges meted out to these six teenage boys, this happens everyday to black children somewhere in America, as Al Sharpton has pointed out.  What is unique is the black reaction the racially discriminatory actions of the LaSalle Parish School Board and LaSalle Parish District Attorney provoked.    

Today’s rally was amazing in its genesis and scale, as the song above says, “It’s a mighty move of God, it’s gonna change your day.” I feel confident in predicting that the charges against all six young men will be dropped.  

Praise God for Michael Baisden, Tom Joyner, Howard Witt, Amy Goodman, Roland Martin, Rev.Al, Rev. Jackson, Color of Change, the black blogosphere, and for the many black college students and other concerned persons who raised the alarm to inform the community when it was needed.  

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, on hand for the day’s events, told CNN’s Kyra Phillips that the House Judiciary Committee is preparing to subpoena the LaSalle Parish District Attorney to Washington to explain his conduct and the President himself said that the Justice Department is monitoring this case.  Despite protestations to the contrary, there is a valid reason why Tina Jones, mother of Purvis Bryant, believes that the D.A. is “so adamant about destroying these kids lives.”  I would love to hear his explanation of how a tennis shoe becomes a deadly weapon.   

The idea of a 21st century civil rights movement which focuses on the disproportionate punishment of people of color in the criminal justice system warms my heart.  That’s something that this skeptical brotha can get with enthusiastically.  Much remains to be done and it is not simply a local issue.   I hope that that Congresswoman Waters and Congressman Conyers grasp that a comprehensive solution which addresses the lack of resources for indigent defense is at the root of the harsh and disproportionate treatment that our children and adults face nationwide. 

 

We don’t live in a Democracy….

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We live in a racist police state.   Case in point, the fake furor over the tasered student at a John Kerry speech at the University of Florida. 

While I won’t defend the obnoxious conduct of this kid that provoked a physical confrontation, it didn’t ever merit him being tasered while Senator Kerry told them to leave him be.  Acting like they didn’t know how to put the boy out the room without looking like a trailer park trained gestapo, doesn’t wash with me.

Last week, a minister, the Rev. Lennox Yearwood, was attacked on Capitol Hill by the notoriously racist Capitol Hill Police force before the General Petraus hearings.  Not a peep was heard even though the widely read Firedoglake blog posted the video.   

They tore ligaments in the man’s damn leg.  While waiting in a public line all morning to get into the hearing, he was barred at the door because of a lapel pin that read, “I love the people of Iraq.” 

The racist myopia that infects the corporate mass media in this country is not remedied by the increasingly critical coverage of the Jena 6 case, or the white glove treatment they give to Barack Obama.  It can only be remedied by telling the truth about the shameless greed, militarism and racism that infects everything we touch at home and abroad.

To that end, I propose that we amend the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem, to say “

“O say, can you see, by the cluster bomb’s frightful light,
What so proudly we hailed at ground zero’s last gleaming,
Whose brainwashed children and bright stars, went through the perilous fight,
O’er the TV we watched, as civilian casualties were so gallantly screaming, And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting and killing women and children on live air, Gave proof through the night that our hypocrisy was still there.
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free market, and the home of the wage slave?”