2/20/2005 Newsletter


  • Jordan Spyhouse Plans
  • Michael Langel Court Watch
  • Jesse Pulley Court Watch
  • Alisa Smith Court Watch
  • Hometown Fallout: Iraq War Vet Arrested After Standoff with Police
  • NYTimes: Lynne Stewart Case Sets Very Bad Precedent

In our last newsletter, we reported plans by the Jordan Area Community Council (JACC) to open up a secret spy house for undercover cops and to install a youth program in the house to cover for their activities.  This information was later picked up as a story in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

We've been contacted by both JACC and the Folwell Neighborhood Organization (recipient of the $975,000 that was going to be used for the CityKids youth program that would form the "human shield" to obscure the presence of the cops).  Both howled mightily about "inaccuracies" in our story, though what they site as "inaccurate" we actually never said.  JACC also stated that the plans outlined in the memo were "brainstorming" only, but from our read of the document it seems clear that this was a discussion of how to implement an already formed plan.  They have demanded we print either a retraction or their back-pedaling version of reality (in the form of a letter they sent to us).  Instead, we will print the original memo in total below and you can determine for yourself the accurately of our reporting.

BOTTOM LINE: We got information that a group was planning to use community funds for a secret police operation and intended to work with a youth program to cover those activities.  We had a responsibility to expose this plan to the community.  As one of our board members put it, "Just imagine the potentially catastrophic fallout of their twisted scheme left uncovered. What they attempted to achieve would have resulted in innumerable individuals being assaulted and possibly (even) killed."

Putting aside the dubious nature of this particular scheme, we are opposed to all plans in which neighborhood groups use community funds to pay for police operations.  Police services are already paid for with our tax dollars--and comprise a significant hunk of our city's budget.  It is wrong to take neighborhood funds that could be used for other purposes and sink them into police operations of any kind, especially secret operations.

As someone who has spent a significant amount of time in the Jordan neighborhood, this editor can attest to seeing drug deals happening in plain view while police in squad cars drove right by without acting.  We have talked to numbers of people who have called police to report drug activity only to be told "there is nothing we can do."  In some cases when people became insistent on getting the police service they pay for, they have found themselves on the receiving end of harassment or brutality by those same cops.  It is doubtful that having a secret spy house in the neighborhood would do anything to alleviate problems that could just as easily be solved by applying old fashioned, high quality policing.  However, the will has to be there.

Contact info for JACC:  Dorothy ("Dottie") Titus, Executive Director, Jordan Area Community Council,
2507 Fremont Avenue North, Minneapolis, MN 55411, 612-529-9267.  Once you've read the information below, feel free to let them know how you feel about the the contents of their document.
Below is the original JACC document on which we based our report.  Aside from a few clearly marked editorial comments for clarity, the document is exactly as written:

Dear Board Members,

Jonathan, Megan and I met today with Tim Jahnke, the owner of the house at 1620 26th Street.  We have agreed to rent the building on a month-to-month basis for a couple of months to verify that the house will help us achieve our goals.  If all that works out, Tim said he would be happy to do a six-month lease with us, or a longer one if we wish.  And our goals have expanded!

When the board was asked about the house, the stated plan was to make it a police substation.  At the 4th Ward Care Task Force meeting last week, that plan received some objections from Councilwoman Barb Johnson.  She made a good point when she questioned creating a police substation just a block away from the new probation house at 26th and Irving.  However, as the meeting progressed, some new ideas emerged, and there are some exciting things afoot.

First, we made it clear to Barb Johnson that this will not be a true police substation.  Our interest is more toward having a building that the Police Department's Community Response Team (CRT-the undercover cops) can use to do surveillance on James Avenue and 36th in order to improve the ability of the police to document and arrest drug dealers and prostitutes.  During initial discussions with Lt. Lund, the police have let us know they are interested.

At this same meeting, Roberta Englund [head of Folwell Neighborhood Organization --ed] announced the appropriation of $975,000 for a youth program in 2005 for the northside neighborhoods that Jonathan announced to you earlier.  The funds will be used through the CityKids program, which teaches kids living skills and puts together summer programs for kids.  Lt. Kim Lund, our sector lieutenant, commented that what the kids need is a chance to discover what it is like to live in a normal house to prepare them for owining their own homes some day.  So many children are growing up in substandard housing that they don't have any idea of what is involved in taking care of a home.  Lt. Lund wondered if our "surveillance" house might also be used as part of the youth program.  Kids could learn how to take care of the house, how to do the laundry, etc. This began to sound quite exciting.

Today, just before we met with Tim, Megan, Jonathan, and I were talking about other potential uses.  Anne McCandless [a former MPD officer --ed] and I have talked about creating classes to teach young women to sew for their homes and their children.  The Youth Committee needed to find another place to cook with the kids (and for the exciting things the new committee will come up with).  In short, this house has a lot of potential for us.  Jonathan suggested we call it the Community Learning Center.  It can be used by CRT but also by the community as a learning center, a place we can hold classes, meetings, etc.

The owner is a very nice young man who is excited at the thought of using his property to better the neighborhood.  He is willing to work with us to make this happen.  He is willing to work on parts of the house to tailor it to our needs.  It has a working washing machine and will have a working dryer.  Ultimately, he said, he wants to sell the house.  It has been vacant since February.  With JACC leasing it, he will have a positive revenue stream, which will be helpful now since he is being laid off from his job in the next week or so.

Meanwhile, we will be meeting with the owner on Thursday, December 2nd, to finalize the arrangement.  Megan will work with the lease and the amendments we need to make it relevant to our use of the facility.  I will be setting up the utility accounts and extending our general liability insurance policy to cover this building.  We will be responsible for snow shoveling and lawn care, which some of the committees may be able to help out with or which might be done as part of the CityKids program if they hold some sessions here.

Finally, we would like to set up a time when board members could tour the building with us.  Please advise when you could tour the house (if you want to).  We are looking at either a late weekday afternoon, say 4 p.m., or a Saturday afternoon.  Do any of these time work for you: [list of a few days/times --ed]

I invite you to put your thinking caps on.  What kinds of activities would you or your committees be interested in using this house for.  This is probably particularly relevant for the Crime & Safety Committee and the Youth Initiatives Committee.

[what follows below was part of this same document but in a different font --ed]

I would ask that all of us keep the use of that house by the police somewhat quiet.  We don't want to alert people that the police will be there.

I think that having other activities there will provide a better cover for the police to do their surveillance.  Having activities there makes it reasonable that people are coming and going at various times.  Letting it stand empty except for the CRT team going in some of the time makes it a bit more suspicious and invites vandalism.

Let's keep talking about this. [End of JACC document --ed]


February 22, 9:00 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Michael Langel
Michael was caught by police, beaten, and set upon by police dogs, then put in the squad with a bag over his head.  He suffered multiple dog bites and other injuries.  He was charged with fleeing and goes to trial on February 22nd.

February 25, 8:30 a.m.
Arraignment Room, New Hennepin County Jail
Jesse Pulley
Jesse was standing at the light rail station on Franklin Avenue waiting for the train.  While he waited, he was smoking.  There weren't any No Smoking signs in the area.  A Metro Transit cop approached him and told him to put out his cigarette.  He pointed out that three or four white people who were smoking nearby.  The officer responded, "n*gger, I'm talking to you."  The officer cuffed him behind the back, placed him in the squad and he was held in jail for 7 hours.  His wrists bled from tight cuffs but he was denied medical attention in the jail.  He is charged with smoking, littering and disorderly conduct.

March 14, 9:15 a.m.
Hennepin County Government Center
Alisa Smith
Alisa is the young woman who had the misfortune of having her head bashed through the window of a cop car.  As a result, she has been charged with FELONY obstructing legal process (OLP).  We've long reported that the favorite charge to cover brutality is OLP--I guess if the cops are especially brutal, they have to charge it as a felony.  Jill Clark is Alisa's attorney.  This trial is likely to be the court watch event of the season.

This article points out the repeat of a sad trend that occurred after both the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars--soldiers who come home so distressed and disturbed by their experiences that they have great difficulty coping with civilian life.  Not only do they become involved in domestic incidents and problems with police but increased suicide rates (including "suicide by cop") and homelessness among returning soldiers are well documented.

Iraq War Vet Arrested After Standoff With Police

A man who once served in Iraq is in trouble after a three-hour standoff with police.

Police say it started Tuesday afternoon when they got a domestic disturbance call from a quiet neighborhood in Saraland. But when they got there they discovered much more.

Saraland's Public Safety Director says after three hours of negotiating, Charles LaPorte finally surrendered. When they got to the home police say they found LaPorte armed with guns and a full clip of ammunition.

LaPorte's wife would not talk to News 5 on camera, but says her husband returned home from the Iraq last June. She says he was a Sergeant in the 1165th Military Police Company and was working as a Paramedic for Mobile Fire Rescue.

News 5 talked with one person who says neighbors pitched in to buy him gifts while he was fighting overseas. The neighbor says LaPorte was quiet and kept to himself.

 "Coming from Iraq, I know he has guns and I know he knows how to use them," Kim Boutzale said. "The guy is capable of using these things." 

LaPorte's wife says what happened at her home Tuesday night was a result of her husband not getting the support and help he needed and asked for after he returned home from combat duty. She says he is now getting help.

LaPorte is in police custody charged with Disorderly Conduct.

By now, folks know that attorney Lynne Stewart was convicted on terrorism-related charges for merely defending her court-appointed client.  As we said in the action alert we sent out last week, this conviction literally guts the Sixth Amendment and sets other dangerous precedents.  The op-ed piece below, by former judge Andrew Napolitano, explains the legal issues involved.

A local action was held here this past Thursday in conjuntion with a national day of action to denounce this verdict.  A panel discussion on the implications of the Lynne Stewart case is being planned.  In the meantime, people can send support messages to Lynne Stewart at any of these three email addresses: [email protected] or at [email protected] or at http://www.lynnestewart.org/

No Defense
By Andrew P. Napolitano
The New York Times
February 17, 2005

THE conviction of Lynne F. Stewart for providing material aid to terrorism and for lying to the government is another perverse victory in the Justice Department's assault on the Constitution.

Ms. Stewart, the lawyer who was convicted last week of five felonies, will be disbarred and faces up to 30 years in jail. She represented Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, not exactly a sympathetic character. He is the leader of the Islamic Group, a terrorist organization that plotted the assassination of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and masterminded the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

He was sentenced in 1996 to life in prison. When Ms. Stewart sought to visit her client in jail, prison officials required her to sign an affirmation that she would abide by special rules requiring that she communicate with the sheikh only about legal matters. The rules also forbade her from passing messages to third parties, like the news media. Yet the jury found that Ms. Stewart frequently made gibberish comments in English to distract prison officials who were trying to record the conversation between the sheikh and his interpreter, and that she "smuggled" messages from her jailed client to his followers.

But if the federal government had followed the law, Ms. Stewart would never have been required to agree to these rules to begin with. Just after 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft gave himself the power to bypass the lawyer-client privilege, which every court in the United States has upheld, and eavesdrop on conversations between prisoners and their lawyers if he had reason to believe they were being used to "further facilitate acts of violence or terrorism." The regulation became effective immediately.

In the good old days, only Congress could write federal criminal laws. After 9/11, however, the attorney general was allowed to do so. Where in the Constitution does it allow that?

Mr. Ashcroft's rules, with their criminal penalties, violate the Sixth Amendment, which grants all persons the right to consult with a lawyer in confidence. Ms. Stewart can't effectively represent her clients - no lawyer can - if the government listens to and records privileged conversations between lawyers and their clients. The threat of a government prosecution would loom over their meetings.

These rules also violate the First Amendment's right to free speech. Especially in a controversial case, a defense lawyer is right to advocate for her client in the press, just as the government uses the press to put forward its case. Unless there is a court order that bars both sides from speaking to reporters, it should be up to the lawyer to decide whether to help her client through the news media.

Ms. Stewart's constitutional right to speak to the news media about a matter of public interest is absolute and should prevent the government from prosecuting her. And since when does announcing someone else's opinion about a cease-fire - as Ms. Stewart did, saying the sheik no longer supported one that had been observed in Egypt - amount to advocating an act of terrorism?

In truth, the federal government prosecuted Lynne Stewart because it wants to intimidate defense lawyers into either refusing to represent accused terrorists or into providing less than zealous representation. After she was convicted, Ms. Stewart said, "You can't lock up the lawyers, you can't tell the lawyers how to do their jobs."

No doubt the outcome of this case will have a chilling effect on lawyers who might represent unpopular clients. Since 9/11 the federal government's message has been clear: if you defend someone we say is a terrorist, we may declare you to be one of them, and you will lose everything.

The Stewart conviction is a travesty. She faces up to 30 years in prison for speaking gibberish to her client and the truth to the press. It is devastating for lawyers and for any American who may ever need a lawyer. Shouldn't the Justice Department be defending our constitutional freedoms rather than assaulting them?

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is an analyst for Fox News and the author of "Constitutional Chaos: What Happens When the Government Breaks Its Own Laws."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

"If the events of September 11th have proven anything, it's that the terrorists can attack us, but they can't take away what makes us American -- our freedom, our liberty, our civil rights. No, only Attorney General John Ashcroft can do that."

--Jon Stewart

Communities United Against Police Brutality
3104 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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