2/28/2009 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Free Carl Eller
  • Strib: To Send Message [about complaining about police brutality], Judge Locks Up Eller
  • Are These the Cops We're Not Supposed to Criticize?
  • More Folks We Aren't Supposed to Criticize [Judges]

FREE CARL ELLER! JAIL RACIST JUDGE MABLEY!

Demonstration: Wednesday, March 4th, 12:00 noon
Hennepin County Government Center, Main Floor
300 S 6th Street, Minneapolis

On February 24th, Judge Daniel Mabley had former Vikings player and now police brutality survivor Carl Eller taken from the court room in shackles after sentencing him to 60 days in the workhouse to "send a message" that anyone--especially a person of color--who dares to tell the truth about police and the court system will be dealt with harshly in his courtroom. Never mind that criticizing police, courts, or any aspect of the government is a First Amendment-protected activity. Knowing how high profile this case was, Mabley wanted to send a message loud and clear to the whole community that there would be a price to pay for any such criticisms.

Interestingly, while criticizing branches of the government isn't a crime, hiding the squad car video of the incident is. This should have been grounds for immediate dismissal of the case. But Mabley had to have his "example" to use and no amount of police misconduct was going to stop him. His comments during the sentencing say it all (see below).

The community needs to come together to send a strong message to Judge Mabley that we are not going to tolerate judicial racism. Criticizing cops and the courts is not a crime! Join us for a demonstration at the Hennepin County Government Center to demand justice for Carl Eller and to condemn the conduct of Judge Mabley. Free Carl Eller! Jail Racist Judge Mabley!


TO SEND A MESSAGE, JUDGE LOCKS UP ELLER

By ROCHELLE OLSON, Star Tribune
February 24, 2009
http://www.startribune.com/local/west/40080412.html?elr=KArksUUUU

Over the sobs of his mother and the pleadings of his lawyers, Minnesota Vikings Hall of Fame defensive lineman Carl Eller left a Hennepin County courtroom in handcuffs Monday to begin serving 60 days in the workhouse.

District Judge Daniel Mabley refused a request from defense lawyer Albert Goins that Eller be given 24 hours to get his affairs in order. "Let him preserve his dignity," Goins said.

The judge declined, saying Eller had called the court and police corrupt, racist and biased. "I have to send a message that I do not find credible what he has asserted," Mabley said. "The best way I can to that is to take him into custody."

The duration of the sentence and immediate jailing surprised most in the courtroom. Goins gently patted Eller as he was led away in his subdued, classic suit. The former Viking did not turn around as he was led out.

His mother, Ernestine Eller, sobbed, "Don't do this. I need him to go home with me. No, no, no."

The courtroom scene closed the curtain -- for now -- on an 11-month legal roller coaster that started on the North Side early in April when officers on patrol saw Eller in a Mercedes G-Wagen speeding west on 8th Avenue N. and driving through a stop sign.

Despite sirens and lights on a police car in pursuit, Eller didn't stop and get out of his vehicle until he pulled into his north Minneapolis garage, police say. Officer Gil Antaya testified about how he and officer Seth Porras tried to arrest Eller but were manhandled by the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Pro Football Hall of Famer, who also threatened to kill them. Eller didn't relent until backup arrived.

Eller, who came to Minnesota in 1960 to play for the Gophers, initially faced four charges, including a felony. But two of the charges were dropped in an arrangement with prosecutors. He was found guilty by Mabley of two gross misdemeanors.

Mabley sentenced Eller to at least two months in the workhouse out of a four-month sentence on a fourth-degree assault charge involving a police officer. He was also given a two-month sentence for refusal to submit to chemical testing. The sentences will run concurrently. The judge fined Eller $1,500 for each charge.

The sentence exceeded what Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Judith Hawley sought from the court. She asked for a 60-day sentence that could be served at home on electronic monitoring. "The goal of the state has not been to have Mr. Eller incarcerated," she said. "Our goal has been to keep Mr. Eller sober."

No special treatment

She said the case wasn't handled any differently because of Eller's high profile. "He has a serious problem with alcohol," she said. Hawley also requested that Eller be given classic "hands-on community service" as opposed to being allowed to work for a foundation.

Both of Eller's lawyers said he is sober. Goins asked that Eller be sentenced to 30 days on home monitoring. "If Carl Eller goes to the Hennepin County workhouse, it's going to be a prescription for disaster," Goins said.

Lawyer Rick Petry cited Eller's reputation and history of serving the community "nobly and with honor."

Before the sentencing, the two police officers each told the judge about damage to their reputations.

Antaya said, "Mr. Eller still contends we assaulted him and he has been treated unfairly."

Porras said, "I am a good, hard-working officer. I do my job to the best of my ability. ... [Eller] continues to place blame on us for doing our jobs."

In his only comments to the court, Eller said, "this has been a difficult time for everyone" and said he was "saddened by the events that happened."

The incident caused him to evaluate his behavior and realize he was "on a path that was not healthy."

Judge highly respected

Mabley, a rather quiet, bespectacled judge who is highly regarded on the bench, said he was less concerned with Eller's testing refusal than he was with the conviction for assault on an officer. Mabley said there was nothing wrong with Eller disputing the court's findings, but he said "misleading the public through your access to the media is another."

He added, "Your main concern is the effect on your reputation."

Eller's lawyers declined to comment.

After he is released, Eller will remain on probation for four years.

In 2006, Eller pleaded guilty to fourth-degree drunken driving while refusing a chemical alcohol test. His two-year probation ended in March.

Eller has filed a federal lawsuit alleging police intentionally hid or destroyed video evidence from the fight.


ARE THESE THE COPS WE'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO CRITICIZE?

Rubén Rosario: Cop's off-duty club questioned in lawsuit
By Rubén Rosario
Updated: 01/10/2009
http://www.twincities.com/ci_11422860?IADID=Search-www.twincities.com-www.twincities.com

A police officer's character and conduct while off duty must always be exemplary, thus maintaining a position of respect in the community in which he or she lives and serves. The officer's personal behavior must be beyond reproach.
- International Association of Chiefs of Police code of ethics

My late grandmother's favorite piece of advice to me, one I still try mightily to adhere to: "You tell me who you hang out with, and I will tell you who you are."

It's not only guilt or praise by association, but also the perception, she would remind me, that could be right or easily misconstrued by others. And you may pay the consequences, rightly or wrongly.

So, consider the following: Can local Twin Cities cops, particularly one mentioned but not named as a defendant in a pending racial- discrimination lawsuit filed by five black Minneapolis police officers, be held responsible for the questionable conduct of associates in an off-duty capacity?

Nearly a dozen Minneapolis and St. Paul cops belong to the Twin Cities chapter of City Heat, a Chicago-based, off-duty law-enforcement motorcycle club. The club Web site's photo gallery contains, last I looked, pictures of some members wearing recognized symbols of hate and racism on their "colors" vests.

One unidentified member is wearing a KKK cross emblem with an "I'm here for the hanging" patch right below it. Other members wear "No blacks" patches and an assortment of swastikas, Confederate flags, Iron Crosses and other items that hate-crime watchdog groups say are often displayed by members of neo-Nazi or white-supremacist groups.

None of the dozen or so Minneapolis and St. Paul cops who belong to the club's local chapter is seen in the posted pictures wearing any of the items. That includes Minneapolis police Lt. Robert Kroll, a member of City Heat who says he is "vaguely familiar" with the lawsuit.

But the pictures could become an issue when the lawsuit goes to trial, possibly later this year.

POLICE LIEUTENANT SINGLED OUT

"I am disturbed that these Minneapolis police officers associate with other law-enforcement officers who very publicly and proudly display racist symbols of hate next to their police department badge and patch,'' said Minneapolis police Lt. Medaria Arradondo, a 20-year veteran.

Kroll, however, thinks Arradondo and the law firm representing Arradondo and four other black officers in the lawsuit are on a fishing expedition.

"If there were any merit to the lawsuit, it would be able to stand on its own without the far-reaching stretch to an off-duty motorcycle club," said Kroll, a supervisor in a Northeast Minneapolis police precinct. "Ever hear the phrase 'throw a lot against a wall and hope something sticks?' "

The lawsuit - which names the city, its police force and its chief, Timothy Dolan - alleges that the five cops were wrongly disciplined, stripped of or denied promotions or retaliated against as a result of their race or ethnic origin.

"Over the last approximately 20 years, African-American officers employed by defendant Minneapolis have been subjected to a hostile work environment and have been subjected to disparate treatment and disparate impact on the basis of their race and color, " the suit claims.

The suit notes that a letter signed "KKK" that every black city cop received in 1992 through the Police Department's interoffice mail. The letter threatened "each African-American officer's life."

The suit also singles out Kroll, who is vice president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, as an alleged example of "racially discriminatory" conduct, and comments made by white officers that are allegedly tolerated by the Police Department.

The suit accuses Kroll of calling Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who is black and Muslim, a terrorist.

"An inspector, a deputy chief of professional standards and a commander of training were present when Kroll made these racist statements, none of whom objected or took any corrective action in response to Kroll's discriminatory statements," the lawsuit alleges.

Kroll denied making the statement, but Dolan sent an e-mail to all police employees denouncing the alleged comments as unacceptable and unflattering to the police force.

The dust-up occurred one month after Kroll completed a 20-day suspension for his role in an off-duty fight with a group of civilians.

Also, Kroll was sued in federal court in 1995, accused of beating, choking and kicking in the groin a 15-year-old boy of mixed race while spewing racial slurs. A federal jury cleared him of wrongdoing.

John Klassen and Andrew Muller, lawyers representing the five officers in the lawsuit, promptly informed city officials of Kroll's connection to City Heat and the questionable pictures after they were alerted to the information several months ago.

"Several organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center, confirmed for us that photos on the City Heat Web site showed numerous individuals displaying symbols of the KKK and neo-Nazi hate groups, along with the Confederate flag, nooses, 'Proud to be White' and 'Are you here for the hanging' patches,'' Klassen informed me in an e-mail.

He also added that the law firm obtained a copy of a departmentwide e- mail sent by a Minneapolis cop and City Heat member promoting a fundraising drive sponsored by the group.

"Once white MPD officers started promoting this group in the workplace, it became an issue for trial," Klassen added. "Ultimately, a federal jury will get to decide whether hateful images published by a group that is being promoted within the MPD are part of a racially hostile workplace. For our clients, these images of hate and intolerance are unacceptable."

City Heat did not respond to an inquiry made to its Web site.

MISINTERPRETATION?

Kroll said he finds it ironic that he's named in the lawsuit because he has an "adversarial relationship" with the police administration being sued.

He said the lawyers and others are misinterpreting the pictures he has seen of the questionable items.

He described the "I'm here for the hanging'' patch, worn by someone he believes might be a Chicago-area cop, as "some type of inside joke with Chicago."

"Aren't you aware of hangings in old Western shows?" Kroll asked. He believes the patch stems from "Beer for My Horses," a country-western song Kroll says is popular among cops because of its strong law-and-order lyrics.

The song "has reference to taking all the rope in Texas, find a tall oak tree, round up all of them bad boys, hang 'em high in the street," Kroll said. "Great song - I have the CD."

As for the rebel flags, "if you travel the South, Confederate flags are quite popular," Kroll explained. "I think you would have a hard time proving racism. ... Again, I have yet to see any hate and racially offensive symbols. The ones you provided me are weak at best."

SYMBOLS TROUBLING

But the head of one of the nation's largest groups of police officers of color and the outgoing president of the reputed largest law- enforcement motorcycle club in the world both find the symbols troubling.

"This kind of off-duty association is very dangerous for cops," said Ronald Hampton, a retired Washington, D.C.-area cop and executive director of the National Black Police Association.

When you "place yourself in those kinds of environments, it cannot help but start sticking with you," Hampton said. "I don't believe cops can just separate their sworn duties from their personal feelings or what they choose to do off duty."

Mike Ripsch, a retired Illinois cop, is the outgoing president of Blue Knights International Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, which has chapters throughout the nation and the world.

Ripsch would not comment directly about the Minneapolis lawsuit, but he reviewed the pictures that appear on the Web site.

"Obviously, the ('I'm here for the hanging') patch regarding the African-American can only be interpreted as racist, and we would take action to have it or the person removed," Ripsch said.

"The question about the Confederate flag ... some cities and states in the South still use it as part of their flags, and many consider it a part of their Southern heritage.

"The Maltese Cross or Iron Cross gets a little more dicey and, again, would have to refer to its context," he added. "To a World War II vet or Holocaust survivor, there is no doubt to its meaning."

If I were the local cops, I would lobby at the very least to have the club become more restrictive of what club members wear. I keep hearing my grandmother's advice.

# To read a copy of the racial-discrimination lawsuit filed by five high-ranking black Minneapolis police officers, as well as the city's response, go to twincities.com.

# To visit the City Heat Web site, go to cityheatmc.org.


MORE FOLKS WE AREN'T SUPPOSED TO CRITICIZE

HOW JUDGES DISGRACE THE BENCH

By NORM KENT
http://www.counterpunch.org/kent02242009.html

All across this country, from small counties to large cities, judges are being exposed as every bit as corruptible as the public they preside over. They are frail. They are weak. They are foolish. They are human. There are 800,000 stories in the Naked City. These are just some of them.

Isolated incidents that would normally never be noticed from state to state now come together because of the breadth of the Internet and its spontaneous dissemination of news and information. The picture it creates forever tarnishes the credibility of our courts. The fears that our justices have about attorneys destroying our courts by open criticism of our judiciary can be put to rest. The judges are doing themselves in without any help from counsel.

Let’s begin in Pennsylvania, the shocking case where two jurists were arrested for taking kickbacks from a private firm paid to run juvenile justice detention centers, compensated by the corporation each time they sent a kid into custody, whether he needed to be there or not. They pled guilty and are headed to jail. It is as disgusting a betrayal of a robe as we will ever see anywhere.

Of course, there is a United States District Judge from Texas facing federal sex crime charges, and he added to his woes by getting indicted last week for obstruction of justice as well. That is more serious than the judge in Alaska who was suspended after he decided to play a game of ex parte during a trial, passing only one of the parties’ notes to aid his litigation. And the note was not about shooting a moose from a helicopter.

There is a Texas county court judge fighting a DUI where she was pulled over for going 92 mph in a residential community. The Commission on Judicial Performance is accusing another judge of leaving work too early, too often, contending that he frequently departed the courthouse halfway through the day. Better than this groveling judge though, begging for mercy on a video cam after being pulled over for a DUI. Here is that link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLWI6zy1pAg

In New Jersey, a former judge has been suspended from his law practice for three months for an incident in which he allegedly told police officers who had arrested him on a drunken driving charge to “get the Vaseline out and bend over." Is that better or worse than the retired Broward County judge who pulled citizens over at gunpoint while he was drunk ? That was years ago. I am writing now only about things which have just happened in the thirty days since I started blogging.

Of course, Broward County, Florida has created a comfortable niche for itself, populated by a battery of judges whose words and deeds this past year have been highly improvident. At least five separate county and circuit court judges have been humiliated for either inexcusably or inadvertently denigrating courthouse service personnel, gays, African Americans, and other lawyers. One was accused of taking kickbacks from an attorney for assigning him cases, another accused of snaking money from the elderly, and another went to a judicial conference sober but came home disrobed.

Meanwhile, the Mississippi Supreme Court has reprimanded a former judge for derogatory public comments he made about “white folks.” How does that compare to the NY federal bankruptcy judge who was popped for a domestic violence charge last week after slapping around his wife of 20 plus years?

In St. Petersburg, Florida an Appeals court judge resigned his seat after admitting to helping a stripper he ‘befriended’ conceal assets from judgment creditors. Well, that is a little bit better than the newly elected judge just south of Seattle who ‘befriended’ and then threatened male prostitutes, and now is being investigated by county prosecutors. In Boca Raton, a lawyer who was suspended from the practice of law managed to win a judicial seat from the jurist who had filed the disbarment proceedings against him. But the Supreme Court has barred the newly elected jurist from serving. Is this a soap opera or not?

As an embryonic blogger, my net-surfacing these past 30 days has enabled me to criss-cross the Blawgosphere the way an astronaut speedily circles around a planet. I have stumbled upon a collage of articles on popular legal blawgs and sites like the ABA Journal and Law.com., exposing these judicial foibles. Clearly, I have found lawyers too whose transgressions are outrageous and many. I have written about those too. But there are what, 500 lawyers for every judge? If the Legion of Judicial Disgraces continues at this pace, they are going to have their own comic books. It almost seems like the Obama Administration vetted judicial candidates.

The bottom line is that the judiciary is not above questioning. Behind those many colored robes are some seriously dysfunctional individuals. It thus becomes the burden of every litigator to stand their ground, make their case, and advocate zealously for their client. The judge’s duty is to be impartial, but first we must guarantee they are credible and competent. Lawyers and litigators must hold them to their tasks.

There is a denigrating joke a senior partner in a big white collar law firm about the candidates they promote for judicial office: “Well, if they can’t generate their weight in billable hours, we make them judges.” Yes, they wear robes and ought to be honored for the office they hold. Many come to the bench to crown a lifetime of achievement and honor. Still, no one should get a free ride.

Judges too must be held accountable. Apparently, around the country, some are. Not enough, I think. It is the tip of the iceberg. Sadly, from what I have seen so far, the judicial ship they are piloting is called the Titanic.

Norm Kent, a criminal defense attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, publishes The Broward Law Blog, www.browardlawblog.com


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