7/7/2003 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Rickey Jones Case: Drop the Charges!
  • INS/MPD Separation Ordinance
  • Volunteers Needed for Moving and Lawsuit
  • Who Will Be The Next Chief?  Will The People Have Any Say?
  • Judge Survey Shows Some Greatness, Some Great Embarrassment

JUSTICE FOR JONES! DROP THE CHARGES!
Update on "Camera Man" Rickey Jones
We've been telling you about the situation with professional photographer Rickey Jones, who captured on film the beating of a suspect by Minneapolis police officers. This has resulted in a steady stream of harassment and assaults against Mr. Jones by police officers. He has reported seven separate incidents to the Civilian Review Authority, yet the harassment continues on a regular basis. What follows is an account of an incident in which Mr. Jones is currently being prosecuted. The information comes from discussions with Mr. Jones, public court documents and from our own court observations.

Mr. Jones was hired to document a family birthday party and banquet with still photos and video. The party was being held in the community room of an apartment building and involved several generations of a family and friends, on up to elderly grandparents, etc. Just as the food was being laid out and Rickey was preparing his equipment, police came off the elevators and burst into the community room, pepper-spraying and swinging night sticks at the party guests. Rickey grabbed his video camera and began recording the action.

One of the first things Rickey's camera caught was an older woman collapsing to the ground and family members screaming that she is having a stroke as police continued to pepper spray the woman and those trying to help her (this is important because police would later claim they came to the party because of the "medical emergency"--which they likely caused!)

A police officer spotted Rickey and yelled for someone to stop him and get the tape. Rickey's video camera captured a police officer full face thrusting his fist into Rickey's face/camera. The camera fell to the ground and refocused just in time to catch several police officers jumping on Rickey, fists flying.

Despite the massive pepper spraying and beating of nearly 200 people by police, Rickey was the only person arrested. His video camera was eventually returned to him, badly damaged. His tape was kept as "evidence." He has been charged with obstructing legal process, the favorite charge by brutal cops trying to cover a beating.

In preparation for Rickey's trial, his attorney, Jill Clark, requested a copy of the video tape and other information as part of discovery. Weeks of delay followed, while the Minneapolis City Attorney's office (Lois Conroy is the prosecutor--remember that name) refused to grant access to the tape and other information. Finally, Ms. Clark was able to view the tape at the prosecutor's office and was shocked by its contents--so shocked she filed a report with the US Justice Department and sent letters to Police Chief Olson and City Attorney Jay Heffern demanding they protect the evidence.

At that point, the prosecutor's office still had not supplied her with a copy of the tape even though they stated they could make a copy right there at the office. Ms. Clark requested that Ms. Conroy bring the tape to court for the pretrial hearing later that week but she did not comply. Ms. Conroy stated that she had "sent out" the tape to be copied but she refused to give information about who she sent it to, when or how. [Later, in Judge Wieland's courtroom--see below--Conroy said that the tape was copied by someone in her office. Seems like she can't get her lie, er I mean story, straight.]

During the pretrial hearing, Ms. Clark obtained a court order forcing the prosecutor to turn over a copy of the videotape. When she finally received the tape a week later, THE FOOTAGE SHOWING POLICE BEATING RICKEY HAD BEEN ERASED. An expert witness who examined the tape copy stated that it was crudely edited and portions were erased. Just so folks get what we are saying here: Conroy's office provided a copy of the video tape that had been "doctored" AFTER Jill Clark had already SEEN the version of the tape showing cops beating Rickey Jones. Since then, Conroy's office has refused to certify that the copy is accurate, has refused to turn over the original tape, etc. Now, we know that stuff like this happens. We just didn't think they would be so blatant about it, after the defense had actually seen the tape.

Ms. Clark submitted a motion requesting the original videotape for testing. This motion has been shuttled around from judge to judge with no one willing to make a ruling. In a truly shameful display, Judge Lucy A. Wieland actually ran off the bench in order to avoid ruling on the motion. She did, however, issue an order forbidding Ms. Clark from making any more pretrial motions in this case. In other words, she told Jill to stop trying to defend her client and to go along with the railroading of Rickey Jones--or else! Judge Wieland even threatened Jill with "sanctions" (fines) for continuing the aggressive defense of her client. Apparently, some judges are in cahoots with the Minneapolis Attorney's Office. It's amazing to be sitting in the courtroom when this stuff happens.

Rickey is scheduled for trial on July 15th. If he goes to trial, we'll be there with him. However, Ms. Clark has also filed an appeal of Judge Wieland's rulings/nonrulings to the court of appeals and has requested an "expedited review" of the case by the State Supreme Court. The only way justice can be done in this case now is for the charges to be dropped.

Please, please make these two phone calls:
1) Court of Appeals Chief Judge Edward Toussaint at 651-297-1006
2) State Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz at 651-296-3380
Tell them the only just ruling on the Rickey Jones case is for all charges to be dropped. Please do this right away because we want them to rule BEFORE Rickey goes to trial. JUSTICE FOR JONES! DROP THE CHARGES!


CITY COUNCIL TO VOTE ON INS/CITY SEPARATION ORDINANCE--BE THERE!
Friday, July 11
9:30 a.m.
City Hall
Room 317
July 11 --- Juulaay 11 keeda --- 11 Julio
The day we help put liberty & justice for all back on America's agenda!

The Minneapolis City Council is poised to take an important stand against racial, national, and religious profiling by adopting the INS/City Separation Ordinance. In adopting the Ordinance the City Council will reassert the principle and practice of local control in the face of the Bush Administration's desire to enlist city employees in its anti-immigrant policies.

What the Ordinance Does: The Ordinance ensures that immigrants can contact city employees about City service matters (police, fire, housing inspections, etc.) without fear of being interrogated about their immigration status or being reported to federal immigration officials.

As immigrant community members have persuasively argued with a united voice, allowing all city residents equal access to public safety and city services without regard to immigration status enhances the public safety of everyone.

Action on July 11: On the morning of July 11, 2003, the Minneapolis City Council will receive a positive recommendation from its Health & Human Services Committee and vote on the INS/City Separation Ordinance. The Ordinance makes clear that City employees will not act as intelligence agents or enforcement arms for the Bush/Ashcroft Administration's anti-immigrant policies. All persons who will benefit from this Ordinance (all of us who love liberty and justice!) are encouraged to attend this historic moment in our City's history.

- - - LIBERTY RALLY - - -
Ordinance supporters will gather at 9:00AM on Friday July 11 for a brief rally at the Father of Waters Statue (use Minneapolis City Hall's 5th Street entrance) and then move together to the Council Chambers, Room 317 for the historic vote at 9:30AM. Please attend & vote with your heart, feet, and vibrant presence!


CALLING ALL STRONG MUSCLES AND FRIENDLY FACES--WE NEED YOUR HELP!

1) Help with Moving: CUAPB will be moving our office to a new space within our building next weekend, July 13th and 14th. We need folks with strong muscles to help us get the furniture, copy machine, etc. down the steps to our new office. If you can lend us your strength for a few hours, please call our hotline at 612-874-STOP.

2) Help with Lawsuit: We are continuing our efforts to get affidavits (fancy legal word for stories) from people for the federal class action lawsuit. We need as many stories as possible by August 18th, when the amended suit is due at court. We are conducting a campaign of door-to-door canvassing, going to groups, going to homeless shelters, etc. to spread the word about the suit and ask people to participate. Law clerks will actually take the stories, since they have to be written a certain way and notarized. But we need folks to get into the community, inform people and bring them forward with their stories. If you like talking to folks, this is the job for you! Please call our hotline at 612-874-STOP to give a little of your time to this important effort.

THANKS FOR BEING PART OF THE SOLUTION!


WHO WILL BE THE NEXT CHIEF? WILL THE PEOPLE HAVE ANY SAY?
One of our board members posted a message to the Minneapolis Issues email list about two weeks ago lamenting the fact that there was no visible search for a new chief of police and asking if the people of the community would be given an opportunity to participate in the selection process. Bear in mind that the chief of police controls a large chunk of the city's budget, oversees 1100 employees and controls policies that have a huge impact on our quality of life. Yet, this individual is unelected. The people must have some means for participating in the selection process for this important position.

Lo and behold, WCCO broke the story last week that the administration has finally started searching for a new chief. [We won't go so far as to claim that our posting spurred the city to action but, hey, who knows?] However, there is still no word about how the community will be involved in this process.

CUAPB is calling for a Community Search Committee to be formed, made up of representatives of the community. Members of the committee would be responsible for defining community standards of what is expected from our next chief of police, interviewing potential candidates inside and outside of the MPD and making recommendations to the city administration. The Community Search Committee would also hold community meetings to take input and release their findings.

Given the city's history of bulldozing federal mediation, the CRA redesign and other efforts, we aren't holding out a lot of hope that they will care enough to get community input on this important decision. Still, we think this is an important demand to make. Please call or write your city council member and ask them to push for a Community Search Committee to represent the community in selecting the next police chief.


 

JUDGE SURVEY SHOWS SOME GREATNESS, SOME GREAT EMBARRASSMENT
July 2, 2003
Editorial
Minneapolis Spokesman Recorder
By: Pauline Thomas

As my readers know, I recently sent an email survey to Hennepin County judges, asking questions about the over-conviction of Blacks, and whether efficiency in the system is more important than truth. I quickly got several email responses right after I sent the survey.

It is interesting to note that the judges who responded right away felt strongly that these are important issues, and from their responses I could tell that they have given these issues a lot of thought and have done a lot of soul searching. I was quite impressed with their level of commitment to making the system fair. These judges are: Peter Albrecht, John Holahan, Isabel Gomez, Daniel Mabley (who took the time to respond from Kosovo, where he is acting as a United Nations judge), and Mark Wernick. I thank these judges for their willingness to not only share their opinions with me, but to allow me, through their answers, to get a glimpse into how they think and feel about these issues. Some additional judges were kind enough to tell me that they will be responding in the future. Surely, we in the Black community are all aware that there are judges who are committed to learning the truth, and committed to making the system more fair.

Here are some paraphrased samples of comments that came from judges who I believe are truly concerned about the fairness of the system, and who are willing to change that system to make it fair.

  • One judge commented that it is troubling how much the system cares about efficiency instead of truth.
  • One judge commented that in Minnesota, people seem unwilling to discuss racism.
  • One judge commented that, in order to be fair, the courtroom judges need to search their souls.

I found these to be interesting and heartfelt comments. They are also comments that other judges could take to heart when they are looking at fairness in their own courtroom, or fairness in the system. Why would we ever put efficiency before truth? What judge could leave the courthouse with a clear conscience if they knew that by rushing through a criminal matter, an innocent Black man was sent to jail? Well, certainly not these five judges.

But some other judges are another matter. Out of 62 Hennepin County judges, I've received a total of 11 responses to date. One judge wrote an email to certain judges, cautioning them, "You may choose not to answer this survey unless you don't care who reads the answer and when. I sent my answer as a prophylactic for 2008 as well as to suggest some answers that might be useful." I don't think Judge Stephen Aldrich knew that he was sending that email to me, too. But I got it (and I still have it as proof). I think his comments to the other judges are very telling. Let me count the ways:

1. Judge Aldrich suggesting to other judges that they should not answer my survey shows that he does not want to give information to the Black community. I certainly hope other judges make up their own minds about whether or not they answer my survey.

2. Judge Aldrich suggesting that perhaps judges shouldn't answer the survey in case someone reads it later means to me that he thinks political jockeying is more important than the lives of Blacks in the criminal justice system. Arrogant isn't even the word for that. Are you all starting to see why we have the problems that we have in the courts?

3. Judge Aldrich's comment that he is answering the survey as a "prophylactic" for 2008 means to me that he doesn't have to run in public again until 2008, and he is answering the survey only so that he can't be attacked five years from now for not answering it. Once again, saving his own political job seems to be more important than getting real with the Black community.

4. Judge Aldrich's "suggesting" answers to other judges is inappropriate. I want these judges to answer for themselves. Does he really think that telling other judges how they can make politically-savvy answers will help make the system more healthy? No, his goal was to help cover these judge politically, so they don't look bad. Sorry, but how the judges look is not as important as whether a Black man is sent to jail for a crime he did not commit.

These comments from Judge Aldrich prove that these people are politicians. As politicians, their comments should be challenged just as much as any other politician's. Apparently, some of these people are politicians first, and judges second. But aren't they supposed to be in office to be fair, to think about the rights of the people in court -- and not just about their own political careers?

I can't tell you how disappointing it was to get this email. I call for Judge Aldrich to retract his "suggestions" to the other judges that they not answer my survey. I want him to apologize to the Black community for his insensitive comments. I want to know whether Judge Aldrich is going to change his ways, or do we need to start working early to get him out in 2008?

In future columns I'll report more about what I'm learning from the judges. Those judges who give honest, heartfelt answers have nothing to fear from me.


Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)


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