4/3/2006 Newsletter


  • Community Forum on "False Reporting" Law
  • Requiem for a Lightweight: McManus Departs
  • Fridley Cops Racially Profile, Harass Patrons of Sharx Nightclub
  • Strib: Ramsey Sergeant Charged with Stealing $200,000
  • Judges on Secretive Panel Speak Out on Spy Program
  • Supremes Appear Unhappy with Bush's War Powers Abuses

Thursday, April 6
6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Minneapolis Urban League
2100 Plymouth Avenue N, Minneapolis
For more info, call 612-302-3100 or 612-874-7867

CUAPB, in conjunction with the Minneapolis Urban League, the Council on Black Minnesotans, the African American Leadership Summit and the Black Church Coalition, is holding a Minnesota Pipeline Community Forum on the so-called "false reporting" law.  This awful law, which was passed by last-year's legislature, criminalizes the reporting of police brutality incidents that can't be proven true--which is many of the cases we see.  Clearly this is meant to discourage people from even trying to report police misconduct.  As recipients of the majority of abuse, people of color and poor people will be most adversely affected by this terrible law.  But they aren't the only ones.  Even reporting about another person's experience with police can get you in trouble under this law--putting activists, journalists and lawyers at risk.

Please join us for a fascinating panel discussion of this law, who is affected and how, and what people are doing about it.

Like March, McManus Came in Like a Lion, Goes out Like a Lamb

By now, it's old news that Minneapolis police chief William McManus is moving on to greener pastures.  Although he started out with much promise, he's leaving without achieving his goals or reaching his full potential.  It may be instructive to examine why.

Remember the Duy Ngo case--in which a plainclothes detective was gunned down by MPD officer Charlie Storlie?  McManus came in about the time the MPD was drying their whitewash of the case with a sham investigation by the corrupt homicide department.  McManus intervened by suspending the cops who were behind the suppression of a damning memo--and immediately found that the mayor who championed him during the confirmation left HIM out to dry. 

At that point, McManus developed a rubber spine.  He must have figured out that it would be easier to play it safe and avoid the wrath of the Police Federation.  He immediately began to renege on the promises of increased accountability he made to the community.  Worse, he went after the Civilian Review Authority (CRA), the one safe place within the city structure for the community to bring complaints against police.  He and his underling, Don Harris, openly attacked and tried to shut down the CRA.  When that didn't work, McManus simply nullified the rulings of the CRA by refusing to discipline sustained cases.  The message to brutal cops could not have been clearer--they would not be held accountable by police leadership.

To his credit, McManus succeeded in placing more officers of color in leadership positions--a feat he also attempted at the officer level until he was stopped cold by an election-year maneuver by Mayor Rybak.  However, this act alone cannot change McManus' disappointing legacy of giving brutal cops the green light.  This will be what we are left with as McManus blows out of town--and our work goes on.

Fridley Cops Racially Profile, Harass Patrons of Sharx Nightclub

We recently began getting reports that Fridley police department squads have been circling the Sharx night club and stopping cars of patrons trying to enter the club.  We decided to check out the situation.

Sure enough, Fridley cops seemed to be taking a rather unnatural interest in the largely Black clientele of the club.  We witnessed and videotaped numerous incidents of people being stopped for no obvious reason.  In talking to the drivers, we found that most did not get tickets but were only asked about their licenses and proof of insurance.  Most had not been told why they were stopped.

Toward the end of the evening, even more Fridley cops showed up, along with their buddies from Minneapolis (the club sits on the street that divides Minneapolis from Fridley.  Fridley cops used squad cars to block off all southbound lanes of East River Road, preventing departing patrons from going toward Minneapolis.  Instead, cars were forced to turn left and as they drove north on East River Road, they were met by a phalanx of cops who zoomed up on them and pulled them over.  The old metaphor of shooting fish in a barrel came to mind. 

As this was happening, apparently some incident broke out and cops decided they needed to engage in a high speed chase.  Mind you, this was on a side street full of crossing pedestrians and cars.  We watched in horror as cops nearly mowed down any number of pedestrians and almost bashed into cars attempting to depart the club.  They took a 15 mile per hour curve at a speed of at least 60 miles an hour.  All to catch some car.

We'll be continuing to monitor the situation at Sharx.  There is some indication that this increased attention by cops is tied to the impending license renewal and the attempt to taint the club as a "problem property."

February 10, 2006

[Editors Note: Interesting how sympathetic this coverage is--they even give a rationale for the theft.  Would they ever do that for a Black defendant?]

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said the suspect's gambling addiction was at the heart of the thefts.

Jackie Crosby, Star Tribune
An 18-year veteran of the Ramsey County sheriff's office was charged Friday with stealing more than $200,000 from a foreclosure escrow account she managed for the county.

Sgt. Lori Elizabeth Kratzke, 42, of Woodbury, was charged in district court with three felony counts of theft by swindle. She had worked in the county's civil processing unit since 1997, where she routinely handled cash payments related to sales of foreclosed properties.

Kratzke resigned on August 20, about a month after a clerk noticed discrepancies between receipts and deposits, according to Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher.

Fletcher said Kratzke had a gambling addiction that caused her to make decisions that "defy normal logic."

"She had to know on some level that the accounting system we have in place was going to catch up with her," he said. "Eventually the documents would raise red flags with accounting, which it did."

Kratzke has "taken responsibility" for her actions, Fletcher said. She turned herself in Thursday to authorities.

The complaint alleges that Kratzke took cash from a foreclosure sale on two occasions in 2005. On March 11 she failed to deposit $51,200 in cash, and on April 28 she took $49,965.

She also admitted to writing a $110,000 check on Feb. 14, 2005, from the Ramsey County sheriff's escrow account, which Fletcher said was part of Kratzke's "financial shell game."

Kratzke wrote the check to Tarpon Point Capital to pay back a loan she had used to pay $26,000 in past-due mortgage payments and to cover a shortage in the county escrow account, according to the complaint.

Kratzke had eight letters of appreciation in her personnel file, Fletcher said. In June 2003, she was issued a written reprimand for using excessive sick time, which Fletcher said was "not believed to be related" to the gambling issues.

By Eric Lichtblau, New York Times

WASHINGTON, March 28 ? Five former judges on the nation's most secretive court, including one who resigned in apparent protest over President Bush's domestic eavesdropping, urged Congress on Tuesday to give the court a formal role in overseeing the surveillance program.

In a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the secretive court, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, several former judges who served on the panel also voiced skepticism at a Senate hearing about the president's constitutional authority to order wiretapping on Americans without a court order. They also suggested that the program could imperil criminal prosecutions that grew out of the wiretaps.

Judge Harold A. Baker, a sitting federal judge in Illinois who served on the intelligence court until last year, said the president was bound by the law "like everyone else." If a law like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is duly enacted by Congress and considered constitutional, Judge Baker said, "the president ignores it at the president's peril."

Judge Baker and three other judges who served on the intelligence court testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in support of a proposal by Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, to give the court formal oversight of the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program. Committee members also heard parts of a letter in support of the proposal from a fifth judge, James Robertson, who left the court last December, days after the eavesdropping program was disclosed.

The intelligence court, created by Congress in 1978, meets in a tightly guarded, windowless office at the Justice Department. The court produces no public findings except for a single tally to Congress each year on the number of warrants it has issued ? more than 1,600 in 2004. Even its roster of judges serving seven-year terms was, for a time, considered secret.

But Mr. Bush's decision effectively to bypass the court in permitting eavesdropping without warrants has raised the court's profile. That was underscored by the appearance on Tuesday of the four former FISA judges: Judge Baker; Judge Stanley S. Brotman, who left the panel in 2004; Judge John F. Keenan, who left in 2001; and Judge William H. Stafford Jr., who left in 2003. All four sit on the federal judiciary.

At a hearing lasting more than three hours, the former FISA judges discussed in detail their views on the standards of proof required by the court, its relations with the Justice Department, and the constitutional, balance-of-power issues at the heart of the debate over the N.S.A. program. The agency monitored the international communications of people inside the United States believed to be linked to Al Qaeda.

The public broadcasting of the court's business struck some court watchers as extraordinary. "This is unprecedented," said Magistrate Judge Allan Kornblum, who supervised Justice Department wiretap applications to the court for many years and testified alongside the four former judges.

But the most pointed testimony may have come from a man who was not at the hearing: Judge Robertson.

A sitting federal judge in Washington, Judge Robertson resigned from the intelligence court just days after the N.S.A. program was disclosed.

Colleagues say he resigned in frustration over the fact that none of the court's 11 judges, except for the presiding judge, were briefed on the program or knew of its existence. But Judge Robertson has remained silent, declining all requests for interviews, and his comments entered into The Congressional Record on Tuesday represented his first public remarks on the controversy.

In a March 23 letter in response to a query from Mr. Specter, the judge said he supported Mr. Specter's proposal "to give approval authority over the administration's electronic surveillance program" to the court.

The Bush administration, in its continued defense of the program, maintains that no change in the law is needed because the president has the inherent constitutional authority to order wiretaps without warrants in defense of the country.

Mr. Specter's proposal seeks to give the intelligence court a role in ruling on the legitimacy of the program. A competing proposal by Senator Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio, would allow the president to authorize wiretaps for 45 days without Congressional oversight or judicial approval.

Judge Robertson made clear that he believed the FISA court should review the surveillance program. "Seeking judicial approval for government activities that implicate constitutional protections is, of course, the American way," he wrote.

But Judge Robertson argued that the court should not conduct a "general review" of the surveillance operation, as Mr. Specter proposed. Instead, he said the court should rule on individual warrant applications for eavesdropping under the program lasting 45 or 90 days.

Acknowledging the need for secrecy surrounding such a program, he said the FISA court was "best situated" for the task. "Its judges are independent, appropriately cleared, experienced in intelligence matters, and have a perfect security record," Judge Robertson said.

He did not weigh in on the ultimate question of whether he considered the N.S.A. program illegal. The judges at the committee hearing avoided that politically charged issue despite persistent questioning from Democrats, even as the judges raised concerns about how the program was put into effect.

Judge Baker said he felt most comfortable talking about possible changes to strengthen the foreign intelligence law. "Whether something's legal or illegal goes beyond that," he said, "and that's why I'm shying away from answering that."

By Gina Holland
Mar 29, 2006

Supreme Court justices appeared troubled Tuesday by President Bush's plans to hold war-crimes trials for foreigners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

And several seemed outraged by the government's claim that a new law had stripped the high court of authority to hear a case brought by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who once worked as a driver for Osama bin Laden.

Hamdan has spent nearly four years in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, and the Supreme Court has been asked to decide if he can be put on trial with fewer legal protections before a type of military tribunal last used in the World War II-era.

The appeal could set the stage for a landmark ruling, and the courtroom atmosphere was tense.

"The use of military commissions to try enemy combatants has been part and parcel of the war power for 200 years," Solicitor General Paul Clement told justices.

Two years ago the Supreme Court ruled that "a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

Hamdan's lawyer, Neal Katyal, told justices that the Bush administration is seeking a "blank check" to do what it wants with foreigners held at Guantanamo Bay.

The U.S. prison has been a flash point for international criticism because hundreds of people suspected of ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban _ including some teenagers _ have been swept up by the U.S. military and secretly shipped there since 2002.

At first, the Bush administration would not let the detainees see lawyers or notify family where they were, and interrogators used aggressive strategies to extract information.

Only a few weeks ago, in response to a victory in a lawsuit by The Associated Press, did the administration release names of detainees.

Justice Stephen Breyer said that lawyers for Hamdan, who faces a single conspiracy count, argue there is no emergency to justify the special trial.

"If the president can do this, well then he can set up commissions to go to Toledo, and in Toledo pick up an alien and not have any trial at all except before that special commission," Breyer said.

Without Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative Bush nominated last year, the argument seemed lopsided against the government. Roberts supported the Bush administration as a lower court judge and had to withdraw from participating.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito gave hints that they support the administration, both suggesting that the high court should delay a decision until after the trial is over _ much like courts do with regular criminal defendants.

Roberts was on a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that signed off on the military trial for Hamdan.

Scalia had been asked by five retired generals to withdraw from participating in the case because of remarks he made in a recent speech in Switzerland about "enemy combatants." Scalia said foreigners waging war against the United States have no rights under the Constitution.

The outcome of the case will likely turn on moderate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who questioned Clement several times about the legal safeguards for the trials. Kennedy said that historically, prisoners have been able to challenge their detentions in court.

It was unclear whether Clement resolved Kennedy's concerns. Clement brought up the 2001 terrorist attacks and said that presidents going back to George Washington used military trials.

The Bush administration has tried to scuttle the case on grounds that the new law stripped the justices' authority to consider it. The law passed late last year bars Guantanamo prisoners from filing petitions to fight their detentions, and the administration claims this law retroactively voided hundreds of lawsuits.

Justice David H. Souter said it would be "stupendously significant" for Congress to retroactively close courts to constitutional challenges.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said "it's an extraordinary act, I think, to withdraw jurisdiction from this court in a pending case."

Hamdan claims the military commissions established by the Pentagon on Bush's orders are flawed because they violate basic military justice protections.

"This is a military commission that is literally unbounded by the laws, Constitution and treaties of the United States," Katyal told justices.

Hamdan, who was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001, is charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, murder and terrorism. He claims he is an innocent father of two young daughters and worked as a driver for bin Laden in Afghanistan only to eke out a living for his family.

Hamdan is among about 490 foreigners currently being held as "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay. Ten of the men, including Hamdan, have been charged with crimes, but justices were told that as many as 75 will be tried.

The case is Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 05-184.

Communities United Against Police Brutality
3100 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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