5/27/2004 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Breaking News: MPD Cops Kill Man in Custody
  • Update on Willie Jenkins Case
  • Games Played by the Hennepin County Court
  • CUAPB Road Trip
  • NLG Challenges Georgia's State of Emergency Declaration for G8 Summit
  • Hysteria in the Heartlands: Rapper Charged with Felonies for Lyrics Challenging Police Chief

BREAKING NEWS: MPD COPS KILL MAN IN CUSTODY
News media are reporting that yet another man has died while in the custody of the Minneapolis police. This latest case happened at about 7:00 a.m. yesterday morning. The man's name has not been released but he died shortly after being sprayed by a chemical irritant, likely Freeze Plus P, the same chemical that contributed to the death of Walter Burks (see our detailed analysis of this case at http://www.charityadvantage.com/CUAPB/images/burks.pdf), Anthony Williams and others. Freeze Plus P is known for causing respiratory distress. Witnesses at the scene of this latest death have said that the man was experiencing distress and shortness of breath just after being sprayed. In fact, this case is eerily like Burks in that it appears the man was asking for help before dying at the hands of the MPD. Why is it that the only way the MPD can figure out how to handle folks in distress is to kill them?

Chief McManus stated that the investigation into this death will be conducted internally by the Homicide Division (also known as the Special Investigations Unit). This is the same unit that botched the Duy Ngo case. A few weeks ago, McManus placed disgraced former state public safety commissioner Rick Stanek in charge of this unit. We're pretty incredulous but will be watching hard to see what kind of a job they do.

The Star Tribune reports that certain "community leaders" are promoting an internal investigation by MPD. This is naive to say the least. What is needed is a truly independent investigation by a special prosecutor. One thing's for sure--the MPD gets one shot to get this right. If they let their own off the hook the same way the Sheriff's Department has been doing for them over the years, no one will ever believe another thing that comes out of that department. Bottom line: WE'LL BE WATCHING.


UPDATE ON JENKINS FAMILY SITUATION
We reported yesterday that Willie Jenkins, a witness in his brother Philander's case (see below), was assaulted at his school by Minneapolis cop Richard Hand. We are happy to report that Willie was released from juvenile detention last night and is receiving appropriate medical care for his injuries. Willie still faces phony charges and he has a pretrial hearing in juvenile court on June 9th. Those courtrooms are closed to the public but we will report later on what happened in that hearing.


GAMES TO WATCH
Practically everyone in town is excitedly watching the progress of our beloved T-Wolves in the playoffs. Even this editor will admit to deriving a kind of vicarious thrill at watching the beauty of finely honed athletes moving with strength and precise teamwork to reach their goals.

There is another game happening downtown--one that involves teamwork (collusion, really), and while it involves power, there is very little beauty to it. The stakes in this game are, nonetheless, far more serious than the entertainment value of our championship B-ball team. I refer to our Hennepin County courts, a "game" rarely viewed by members of the general public unless they are unfortunate enough to be part of one of the cases. This particular court system contributes, in very large measure, to the state of Minnesota having the highest rate of overprosecution of Blacks of any state in the U.S. Of course, they can't do the job alone. Arrests are the entry valve into the system and cops are certainly doing their part to ensure that plenty of Blacks are introduced into the system for prosecution, in part by slapping false charges on folks to cover police brutality and misconduct.

This edition of the newsletter will give you the inside view of two cases that are currently winding their way through Hennepin County's court system. Maybe when you see how exciting this kind of "game" can be, you'll want to come down to court for a ring-side seat.

Al Flowers/Alisa Clemons Case: A Heck of a Racket
This case started off with an incident in which Al Flowers, long-time member of the NAACP, attended a meeting of the NAACP executive board at the Minneapolis Urban League on Plymouth Avenue. At that time, there was much controversy among members over chapter spending and other issues and Flowers, along with other members, was trying to raise these issues. In order to have an excuse to end the meeting early, NAACP executive board members called the police on Flowers but Flowers left before they arrived. He was standing on the sidewalk outside of the Urban League building, talking on his cell phone, when cops got there.

Park Police arrived first, followed by MPD. The park cop rushed Flowers, pushing and shoving him. All of the non-cop witnesses say he didn't resist. Even the Park Police cop says he isn't sure if he told Flowers he was under arrest. How can you resist an arrest you didn't know about? This is a common trick by the cops that allows them to put false charges on people to cover their brutality.

About that time, two regular MPD officers showed up and people from the meeting came rushing out in time to see a Minneapolis cop choking Flowers. Eyewitnesses testified that he was literally being choked to death--his tongue was hanging out and he could not breathe. Flowers' sister, former MPD cop Alisa Clemons, rushed to aid her brother and totell the cops to stop "acting crazy." Videotape of the incident show she was shoved away by Officer Mooney. Rev. Randy Staten testified that he pulled the cop's hand off Flowers' neck to keep him from choking Flowers to death, and that he had a legal and moral obligation to do so.

There were many eyewitnesses to this incident, including council member Natalie Johnson Lee, state rep Neva Walker and other key community leaders. Police did not take statements from any of these witnesses and, instead, listed only police officers as witnesses. The incident was also captured on Urban League security cameras.

After being shoved in a squad car, Flowers was driven around the corner by the Park cop and held there for some 45 minutes while police leadership arrived and cops held a conference in the nearby Precinct parking lot to get their stories together. Flowers laid on the back seat of the squad car in pain. Police would not release Flowers to his mother so she could get him health care at the family's health care center of choice. Instead, he was then taken to Hennepin County Medical Center (the cop hospital of choice), where he was put on an illegal "medical hold" by the MPD.

Under the law, a medical hold can only be used if the individual is mentally ill, mentally retarded or under the influence of drugs/alcohol AND they pose a danger to themselves or others. Clearly, Flowers did not meet these criteria. No one at HCMC even evaluated him to see if he did. They simply went by the desire of the cops, which was to hold Flowers until they could get their business done. Their business? Getting their version of the assault into Flowers' medical record. This is another favorite trick of the cops, and one that HCMC is only too willing to participate in, which explains WHY HCMC is the cop's favorite hospital.

Charges against Flowers were initially dropped and Clemons was not initially charged. However, folks were talking about the attack on the internet, etc. so cops felt compelled to come back and charge Flowers along with Clemons, to cover their own actions. The mechanisms behind this are something to behold.

After getting their stories together, some of the officers went back to the station and wrote preliminary reports. The reports were then brought back up in the computer system and altered repeatedly as new information caused police to need to change their stories. This is improper to say the least--if new evidence is obtained in cases, cops are supposed to write NEW supplemental reports, not change the original report to fit the new circumstances. Amazingly, attorneys Jill Clark and Jill Waite have found a way to determine when a police report has been accessed and changed in the MPD computer system. They brought a several-page long report showing all the times the various reports on this case had been changed or rewritten: proof positive of MPD falsifying reports.

At one point, Officers Tschida and Abercrombie were told to go down to the Urban League and view the surveillance tapes for evidence to clear the officers. The Urban League staff told them they could look at the tapes but not take them without a warrant. Officer Tschida testified in court that he took detailed notes that were later used to create a supplementary report. Information from those notes was used to decide how to charge Flowers and Clemons. However, when asked to produce the notes in court, Tschida testified that he had destroyed the notes. He further testified that all cops destroy the notes they make in the notebooks they have with them on the scenes of incidents, even when criminal cases are pending. This is, of course, a violation of state law, which prohibits destruction of government documents. Even the judge in the case, Judge Nordby, said he had concerns about that.

What Tschida, Abercrombie and their supervisors didn't know is that the surveillance films were of somewhat rough quality. The images were fuzzy. From those fuzzy images, they decided that Flowers put up his arm first and that he moved back toward the Urban League building, which justified police tackling, kicking, hitting and choking him. However, attorneys Clark and Waite had the video digital data professionally enhanced and a very different story emerges--clearly the Park cop made the first physical move and clearly Flowers only "moved toward" the building after cops kicked his legs out from under him and he began to fall backward.

All of this information came out during a pretrial hearing on a motion to dismiss the case, which was held on May 12th, and our court watchers were there for all of the action. One thing's for sure: this case shows that cops have got one hell of a racket! Tennis players will tell you that a good racket helps but it can't make a bad player good. Now the ball is in Judge Nordby's court--stay tuned for his ruling.

Philander Jenkins Case: Sheriff's Department Catch-22
If you read the local fish wrappers, you know that Philander Jenkins is being charged with false reporting after a cover-up "investigation" by the BCA tried to show that he was not physically and sexually assaulted by Hennepin County Sheriff's Deputies in the jail. He is currently on trial on these "false" reporting charges.

First of all, we have zero faith in the investigation by the BCA--it was clearly slanted to favor the Sheriff's department. When you read what has come out in court about this investigation, we think you'll agree:
1) Immediately after the attack, Jenkins used some tissues to stop anal bleeding. He hid the tissues until deputies found out about them and seized them. These were never inventoried into the BCA. Yet, when Jenkins' attorney asked about the tissues, they suddenly were "found" and tested--but only for Philander's DNA, not the jailers' DNA.
2) First Person Reports - These are statements of inmates made during the investigation. The BCA only included statements from inmates that were harmful to Philander, including one from a man who wasn't even IN the jail when Philander was there and another who had all of his charges dropped after giving a statement. Two statements from inmates in nearby cells and who heard the entire attack were not included in the report and the prosecution has refused to turn the reports over to Philander's attorney.
3) The orange jumpsuit Philander was wearing during the attack has magically "disappeared." Shortly after the attack, Philander was visited in jail by his attorney, who saw blood on his orange jumpsuit. The attorney asked that the jumpsuit be preserved as evidence. Apparently, that didn't happen. No word about the jumpsuit in the BCA report.
4) Videotapes: Anyone who's ever been in the HC jail knows there are video cameras everywhere. Philander's attorneys have asked over and over for the footage from video cameras that filmed in the area of his cell. This still has not been turned over by the prosecution, despite an order from Judge Nord.
5) The BCA included a draft version of Hennepin County Medical Center records in its report (this is indicated in large print on the first page of the report), despite the fact that a final version was available at the time of the investigation. The final version shows a disposition that Philander Jenkins is a sexual assault victim, the preliminary version does not. Why would any supposedly professional investigation agency use a draft version of a document when the final version was available? This just doesn't pass the smell test.
5) The BCA spent several days talking to Sheriff's department employees before they ever talked to Philander. Their interview with Philander included threats and interrogation techniques. In contrast, Sheriff's department staff were allowed to read from prepared statements for their very brief interviews.

Secondly, Philander never made any complaint to the any law enforcement agencies--he filed an internal complaint at the jail to the nurse and to staff members. These people are not members of law enforcement. It was the Sheriff's Department who filed the complaint to the BCA, a law enforcement agency.

Here's the Catch-22 the Sheriff's office finds itself in: If the charges of physical and sexual assault are true, (and we believe they are) then a serious crime was committed against Philander Jenkins and the deputies responsible for it need to be prosecuted. If the charges are not true, then it is the Sheriff's department that should be prosecuted for reporting false charges to the BCA, not Philander.

All of this information and much more has been filed with the courts in a motion to dismiss the charges against Philander. His case goes back to court on July 9th at 1:00 p.m. in front of Judge McShane. If these people have any sense at all, they will drop these charges. No matter what, this is one hearing you will not want to miss!


TAKING OUR MESSAGE ON THE ROAD
This editor was privileged to travel last week to a large southern city to make a presentation on community oversight of police to their Board of Alderman, the equivalent of our city council. I was invited by local activists who have been fighting to get a civilian review authority going in their city for four years. I spoke about our work on the CRA redesign working group, about our proposed outcomes and what we actually got, about various models and best practices of civilian review and about important features of all community oversight bodies. That city is close to having a community oversight board and I hope that my comments will help them make good decisions about how that board operates.

I want to thank the community members who hosted my trip. As a long-time activist, I've traveled the country sleeping on sofas or air mattresses on the floors of other activists' houses. This time, however, well-heeled hotel owners sponsored my trip and put me up in a fabulous suite in their 4-star downtown hotel. It was just a little hard coming back home. It was also a real treat to meet a wonderfully diverse group of fellow activists who have been doing great work. I've been getting updates from those local activists and will report on their progress in future editions of this newsletter.


NLG PRESS RELEASE CHALLENGES WAR AT HOME
The National Lawyers Guild Condemns Georgia's Declaration of State of Emergency for G-8 Summit Meeting

WASHINGTON - May 24 - The National Lawyers Guild condemned the recent announcement by the Governor of Georgia declaring a state of emergency merely because protests are expected in connection with the Group of Eight (G-8) summit meeting on Sea Island in June, and also condemned recently announced security plans by Massachusetts authorities for the Democratic National Convention in Boston in July. Massachusetts authorities announced Friday that over 40 miles of roadway will be closed for much of the Convention, as well as the North Station subway and train depot. The Guild labeled the actions in both states as gross overreactions to vastly inflated security concerns.

Michael Avery, President of the Lawyers Guild, stated, "The Government is using an exaggerated threat of disruption in order to demonize and discourage legitimate political protest. If the declaration of emergency by Governor Sonny Perdue of Georgia were justified, it would have made sense to put the entire South under a state of emergency for the entire period of the civil rights movement. Obviously such draconian security measures have no place in a constitutional democracy. It is precisely when conditions are tense and difficult that we need the protection of the Constitution for the right to protest and dissent the most."

The National Lawyers Guild has been working to defend the rights of protestors at mass demonstrations. It provided legal teams to assist demonstrators during the FTAA protests in Miami last year and has been actively involved in legal defense in Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington and Philadelphia, as well as other cities. The Guild is training legal observers to monitor demonstrations and will be providing lawyers to defend protestors during both the Democratic National Convention in Boston and the Republican National Convention in New York this summer.

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, comprises over 6,000 members and activists in the service of the people. Its national office is headquartered in New York and it has chapters in nearly every state, as well as over 100 law school chapters. Guild members provide legal support to progressive demonstrations throughout the country, and well understand the nationwide trend toward increasingly repressive measures deployed against political protesters.


HYSTERIA IN THE HEARTLANDS
Ohio rapper faces prison for "inducing public panic"

Nineteen year old Kevin Beebe of Jefferson, Ohio was recently arrested for creating a musical rap CD and distributing it at his local high school in an effort to promote his music and target his potential audience of high school students. He placed 10 CDs on car windshields, choosing cars that looked like the owner might be interested in that type of music. Kevin included his e-mail address on each CD so people would know how to get hold of him if they were interested in his music.

According to local police a couple of students who listened to the music, became scared because they "felt the lyrics" were threatening. The local police Chief admitted in an interview that he never listens to rap music and the school's superintendent stated in a television interview, "we do not see this as poetry, and we certainly do not recognize this as music".

Now Kevin faces a four charge felony trial after his indictment last Thursday by an Ashtabula County grand jury. Kevin was indicted on two counts of inducing a public panic, both fourth-degree felonies, and two counts of aggravated menacing, both first-degree misdemeanors. If convicted on all charges, Kevin could be sentenced to a maximum 3 ½ years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The indictment alleged that the music, which Beebe admits recording, contains threatening lyrics and references to a Columbine-style massacre at the high school. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Ariana E. Tarighati said, "All we have to prove is significant public alarm. And the community was alarmed," she said. "These kids (who heard the CDs) were scared."

Beebe's attorney, Timothy Kurcharski, said Beebe's reason for going to the high school was about promotion, not destruction. Kucharski said Beebe had First Amendment rights to free speech and never caused any panic.

According to many people following the case, the local police chief and the school superintendent have contradicted themselves repeatedly throughout this entire ordeal. The local police chief, who would later call the lyrics a "very serious Columbine threat," allowed the students to come back to school the following day after he listened to the lyrics, without notifying the parents or searching students (or their possessions) upon entering school grounds.

The words Columbine were used once in the CD as was the word "principals".

The police chief claimed the lyrics threatened his life.

The "threatening" lyrics went like this, "Chief Febel tried to catch me, but he's too fat. He's got a donut hole for a trigger, how about that."

For four days, the local police chief did not try to locate Kevin through his e-mail address, nor did they go and knock on Kevin's grandmother's apartment, located directly across from the High School, where he was seen after he placed the CDs on the windshields.

After four days of intense media coverage throughout the state of Ohio and into Pennsylvania, the local police finally called in the Ashtabula County Sheriff's department because the community was becoming extremely upset with how the school superintendent and the local police chief had been handling the case.

The Sheriff's department almost immediately located Kevin through his e-mail address. The Sheriff's Department would later tell people that they had a lot of sympathy for Kevin because they knew that he was just trying to promote his music, that the local police chief botched this from the very beginning and that this should never have happened, and that if he had intended this as a threat, he would not have included his e-mail address on each CD.

However, the sheriffs also noted that the police were concerned that during a community meeting with 300 screaming parents (upset at the local police), that some parents were so out of control, that they were worried that some might try to file a lawsuit against the police for potentially endangering students lives because they did not notify the parents (thus giving them the choice to leave their student home from school). In this meeting, the local police Chief stated several times that he let the students come back to school (including his own daughter) because he believed there was NO threat and that they were safe. Yet the next day they arraigned Kevin on 2 felony counts.

Sources: News Herald (Northeast Ohio), Hip Hop Corner NetNews 5 (Ohio), WJET, Cleveland Plain Dealer


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