12/4/2003 Newsletter


  • Rickey Jones Case:  Tapes Being Sent to a Real Video Expert
  • Philander Jenkins Court Support
  • City Council Hearing on Police Mediation Agreement
  • MN Against the Death Penalty Press Conference
  • FBI Spying Through Onstar Service
  • Commentary on Miami Police State Measures

This past Monday, the Rickey Jones case was back in court. Rickey's attorney, Charles Hawkins, presented two key motions.

You'll recall that Rickey Jones is a professional photographer who was hired to videotape a birthday party. Police attacked the party and Rickey captured the attack on tape. Police then beat and arrested Rickey in order to get ahold of the tape. Rickey's original attorney, Jill Clark, viewed the videotape at the city attorney's office and saw many disturbing scenes. However, when the city attorney's office finally sent her a copy of the tape, the scenes had been blacked out. At that point, Jill became a witness in the case and Charles Hawkins took over as Rickey's attorney. Two months ago, Judge Bush ordered the tapes to be tested by the FBI lab. However, they did what appears to be a less than thorough job of testing and issued a report implying there was nothing wrong with the tapes.

There were two motions brought in court on Monday. One was to request that the videotapes be released to an expert of our choosing. Over great objection by the city attorney's office, Judge Bush ruled in our favor (WOOHOO!!) and the tapes will be sent out to the expert this week. We expect an answer in about two to three weeks. Assistant city attorney Lois Conroy was in true form at the hearing. She whined that the testing will delay things, to which Judge Bush countered that the trial is not scheduled until February and testing will only take two weeks, so it should be done well before trial. She complained about the cost of the testing, to which we answered that we would pay for it. She then asked for a 10 day stay on Judge Bush's decision while she appeals it to a higher court. Here's the rub, though--discovery decisions aren't appealable. As a lawyer, she should have known that. One has to wonder why Conroy is STILL working so hard to prevent this examination of the tapes--what IS she afraid of?

The second motion brought by Rickey's attorney was to dismiss the case for lack of evidence. Rickey is charged with obstructing legal process. The cops claim that they told Rickey to leave and he refused, thus getting in the way. In particular, his head and body seem to have gotten in the way of the cops' fists. However, there's a bit of a hitch. Cops are not seen or heard anywhere on the videotape telling Rickey to leave. Sure, they lied in their police reports but, hey, there's that pesky videotape. Perhaps they'll claim that they erased that part of the tape by mistake. Judge Bush said he wanted to review the file in detail and would rule later on the motion. We'll let you know when that ruling is issued. If Santa grants OUR wish, not only will the case against Rickey be dropped, but the lying cops will get prosecuted for their phony police reports. That'd be one hell of a stocking stuffer!


December 4 (TODAY) at 9:00 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center (check court information desk for courtroom number)
Court support for Philander Jenkins. Hearing on motion to dismiss charges. Philander's attorney, Peter Nickitas, will present evidence of excessive force when Minneapolis police broke Philander's jaw while arresting him last May and will request that charges be dropped as a result. This is a case study in how police brutalize someone and lay on charges to cover it up.

December 4 (TODAY) at 1:30 p.m.
Council Chambers, Room 317 City Hall
Meeting of the Minneapolis city council's Public Safety & Regulatory Services Committee regarding the Police Mediation Agreement. We haven't seen the final agreement so haven't taken a position on it yet. Hopefully the community will learn more today.

December 4 (TODAY) at 3:00 p.m.
State Office Building, Room 200
(adjacent to the capitol on the west side)
MN Against the Death Penalty Press Conference
Governor Tim Pawlenty is callously using the apparent abduction of Dru Sjodin as political justification to bring the death penalty back to Minnesota. A broad-based coalition has formed to prevent both a state death penalty and the possibility of federal executions in this state. The coalition will be holding a press conference with a number of legislators who oppose Pawlenty's move to reintroduce the death penalty to this state.

December 5 at 7:00 pm
Holy Trinity Church, 2730 East 31st Street, Minneapolis
PEACE CABARET with an Irish Twist & Live Auction, Too!
A fundraiser for Cry Justice! Come have some fun and help us retire our debt from the Cry Justice! Conference!

December 6 at 1:30 p.m.
IATP Building, 2104 Stevens Avenue in Minneapolis
CUAPB regular weekly meeting. Want to get involved in the movement to stop police brutality? Come to our meeting and plug into the work.

December 7 at 5:00 p.m.
IATP Building, 2104 Stevens Avenue in Minneapolis
Survivor/Family Empowerment Event
A gathering for survivors of police brutality and family members of people killed by police to come together and support one another. A delicious meal will be served and child care will be provided. Transportation available by calling our hotline at 612-874-7867. Volunteers, food and funds still needed--please call our hotline if you can help.

Court to FBI: No spying on in-car computers
November 19, 2003, 12:07 PM PST
By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

The FBI and other police agencies may not eavesdrop on conversations inside automobiles equipped with OnStar or similar dashboard computing systems, a federal appeals court ruled.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday that the FBI is not legally entitled to remotely activate the system and secretly use it to snoop on passengers, because doing so would render it inoperable during an emergency.

In a split 2-1 ruling, the majority wrote that "the company could not assist the FBI without disabling the system in the monitored car" and said a district judge was wrong to have granted the FBI its request for surreptitious monitoring.

The court did not reveal which brand of remote-assistance product was being used but did say it involved "luxury cars" and, in a footnote, mentioned Cadillac, which sells General Motors' OnStar technology in all current models. After learning that the unnamed system could be remotely activated to eavesdrop on conversations after a car was reported stolen, the FBI realized it would be useful for "bugging" a vehicle, Judges Marsha Berzon and John Noonan said.

When FBI agents remotely activated the system and were listening in, passengers in the vehicle could not tell that their conversations were being monitored. After "vehicle recovery mode" was disabled, the court said, passengers were notified by the radio displaying an alert and, if the radio was not on, the system beeping.

David Sobel, general counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, called the court's decision "a pyrrhic victory" for privacy.

"The problem (the court had) with the surveillance was not based on privacy grounds at all," Sobel said. "It was more interfering with the contractual relationship between the service provider and the customer, to the point that the service was being interrupted. If the surveillance was done in a way that was seamless and undetectable, the court would have no problem with it."

Under current law, the court said, companies may only be ordered to comply with wiretaps when the order would cause a "minimum of interference." After the system's spy capabilities were activated, "pressing the emergency button and activation of the car's airbags, instead of automatically contacting the company, would simply emit a tone over the already open phone line," the majority said, concluding that a wiretap would create substantial interference.

"The FBI, however well-intentioned, is not in the business of providing emergency road services and might well have better things to do when listening in than respond with such services to the electronic signal sent over the line," the majority said.

In a dissent, Judge Richard Tallman argued that a wiretap would not create unnecessary interference with emergency service and noted that "there is no evidence that any service disruption actually occurred. The record does not indicate that the subjects of the surveillance tried to use the system while the FBI was listening. One cannot disrupt a service unless and until it is being utilized.

"The record indicates that the only method of executing the intercept order in this case involved activating the car's microphone and transferring the car's cellular telephone link to the FBI. This conduct might have amounted to a service disruption, had the subjects of the surveillance attempted to use the system, but there is no evidence that they did."

The majority did point out that the FBI cannot order the system to be changed so that the emergency functions would work during surveillance. Congress ordered telephone companies to do just that in the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, but current law does not "require that the company redesign its system to facilitate surveillance by law enforcement."

General Motors did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Its OnStar privacy policy says: "OnStar may disclose personal information if required to do so by law on (sic) in the good faith belief that such disclosure is reasonably necessary to comply with the legal process...OnStar cannot accept any responsibility for accidental or inadvertent disclosure, unauthorized access or for other disclosure as required by law or described in this policy."

The decision is binding only in California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Hawaii, and other states that fall within the 9th Circuit's jurisdiction. No other appeals court appears to have ruled on the matter.

The Miami Herald
Posted on Thu, Nov. 27, 2003

[Although the author incorrectly identifies all anti-NAFTA protesters as "anarchists" the piece overall is well done--Ed]

Thanks to Cops, the Anarchists are the Winners

For a week, Miami leaders have been praising police for preventing the type of property damage Seattle had during the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting.

The reasoning goes that since there wasn't $2 million in property damage here, as there was in Seattle, the police obviously did a great job.

It is the classic argument of the ends justifying the means.

OK, we saved some windows, but at what cost? I don't mean just the ridiculous amount of police overtime -- which will run into millions of dollars -- I mean the cost to us as a people. The intimidation, the fear, the contempt shown to the Constitution. Where do we send that bill?

First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly, and Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, did not exist last week in Miami.

People were stopped and searched and arrested without cause. No one wants to believe the police would do such things. It is more comforting to believe that in every case where the police used force or arrested a person, the protesters must have done something to deserve it. The alternative, after all, is too scary to imagine.

But it happened. We've heard story after story. Not isolated incidents, but repeated tales of misconduct.

And we heard it not just from young people with face piercings, but from working people and senior citizens who came here to peacefully protest and were needlessly pepper-sprayed and assaulted by police.

Just look at Police Chief John Timoney's actions on Nov. 20. A Herald reporter spent the entire day with him and watched as Timoney, for no good reason, grabbed a kid and stood by as two other officers dumped the kid's backpack onto the sidewalk to see if he had any rocks inside the bag. He didn't.

Later, Timoney rode his bicycle over to someone being arrested for throwing something at officers. The chief shoved his finger in the guy's face as he was being handcuffed and said: ``F--- you!''

I realize most people's first reaction is to think that's great. How colorful. We all root for Dirty Harry. We all like the idea of a tough cop out there protecting us. But in reality, Timoney isn't tough. He's a bully. In fact, he's the worst kind of bully there is -- a bully with a badge.

Is this really the person we want setting the tone for a department with a history of lawlessness and civil rights abuses? Have we forgotten the Miami River Cops who ripped off and drowned dopers? The killing of Leonardo Mercado? The use of throw-down guns to cover up bad shootings?

A Herald photographer watched as a squad of police officers approached a small group of people standing in the street near the arena late in the afternoon of Nov. 20. They weren't doing anything, but the police wanted them to move. As the group started to walk north, the officers told them to move quicker and began chasing them. One of the officers started blasting a woman in the back with balls of pepper spray. He shot her six times in the back.

Let's be clear: In my opinion, anyone who attacks a police officer, throws something at a police officer, spits at a police officer should be arrested. I have no respect for anyone who would do such things.

But I have even less respect for an officer who abuses his power for indiscriminate revenge. And that is exactly what happened last week.

And here's a news flash for everyone: The anarchists won.

Their goal wasn't to cause $2 million in property damage. If they had wanted to do that, they could have gone to South Beach and torn things up. Their goal was to equate the free-trade talks with repression. And we obliged them by turning downtown into an armed camp with 3,000 cops in riot gear.

The city and Miami-Dade County will now face an onslaught of civil rights lawsuits. Newspaper and TV reports on these suits over the next two years will conjure up images of Miami as a Third World dictatorship.

And all of this for a watered-down agreement on free trade that will never bring the number of jobs to this area that's been promised.

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

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