8/6/2004 Newsletter


  • Henn County Prosecutor Pulls Cheap Stunt in Jenkins Case
  • Dennis Babcock to Get New Trial
  • Did they Mistake a Payday Candy Bar for a WMD?
  • Kids Arrested for Pissing Off Bush-Lover Cops

Regular readers of this newsletter know that a little over a week ago, Judge Charles Porter declared a mistrial in the bogus case against Philander Jenkins after a police officer gave improper testimony in court and also revealed that witnesses had been tainted by the prosecution. Judge Porter ruled that the state could not retry Philander on the charges, since witnesses cannot be "untainted." We thought this would be the end of these phony charges, which were put on Philander to cover the fact that police officer Jeffrey Jindra beat him and shattered his jaw and then he was held in jail for 10 days with no medical care.

In what has to be one of the stupidest, most unethical moves ever, Hennepin County prosecutor Anita Jehl had Philander Jenkins brought to the courthouse on Wednesday of this week and attempted to recharge him with the same charges that Judge Porter just dismissed. She did this without even notifying his attorneys, so Philander was literally in the courtroom by himself with the prosecutors and the judge. Judge David Duffy heard the case and luckily he wasn't having any part of the foolishness. He ordered Jehl to take the matter back to Judge Porter.

THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! Prosecutor (or should we say persecutor?) Anita Jehl is putting Philander through a living hell and wasting taxpayer dollars in what appears to be a twisted personal vendetta. Or maybe she's getting heat from the MPD. Whatever the case, we need to let her and her boss know that her actions in this case have been UNACCEPTABLE!

Please take these actions:

1) Call Hennepin County Prosecutor Amy Klobuchar and tell her how you feel about the actions of her employee, Anita Jehl. Jehl should get fired for the crap she has pulled in this case! Let Klobuchar know the community will not continue to allow Jehl to act out a vendetta on the Jenkins family. Klobuchar's office phone: 612-348-5550, fax 612-348-9712. The only email we were able to obtain is [email protected] but we will let you know if we are able to get a better email address later.

2) Philander will be back in court in front of Judge Porter on Wednesday, August 11th. WE NEED TO PACK THE COURTROOM! Meet us at the fountain on the main (public service) level of the Hennepin County Government Center at 12:30 p.m. for a pre-hearing rally. Philander's hearing starts at 1:30 p.m.

County Attorney Amy Klobuchar loves to run all over town spouting about how we can't have two systems of justice, one for the poor and one for the rich. But she sure doesn't seem to have any problem with two systems of "justice"--one for community members and one for brutal thug cops. With all of the deaths and serious brutality cases, her office has yet to prosecute a single cop AND her office is clearly involved in this effort to cover yet another serious incident of police brutality. If Klobuchar can't or won't rein in her employee, she doesn't deserve to be the county prosecutor.

Two years ago, we worked very hard on the case of Michael Smith and Dennis Babcock, who were convicted of crimes after plainclothes officers came to their door and tried to enter their home. These officers never identified themselves as cops. They had been working undercover and were wearing muscle shirts and dew rags. When they came to the door, they attacked Dennis' mother. Dennis and his stepfather Michael thought their home was being robbed and they fought back. They did not have weapons. Finally, after several minutes of the altercation, the cop who had been fighting with Michael identified himself. Michael put up his hands, took two steps backward and the cop pulled his gun and shot Michael in the chest. Dennis, who had been fighting the other cop, dropped to the floor and began crawling away on his hands and knees. He was shot four times in the back and sustained serious injuries. He lost part of his intestine and has a colostomy as a result of the incident.

Despite the fact that the cops did not identify themselves and were not in uniform, and despite the fact that a uniformed cop who arrived on the scene (after a call from a concerned neighbor who also thought a robbery was in progress) testified that he almost shot one of the plainclothes cops until he recognized him at the last second, both Michael Smith and Dennis Babcock were convicted of crimes related to fighting with the cops. Michael was convicted of 5th degree assault and received probation. Dennis, however, was convicted of first degree assault and other charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. We spent many hours at the trial of these family members and were deeply saddened by the outcome of this case in which cops clearly got away with prosecuting the family for what cops had done to them. If anything, these cops should have been prosecuted for shooting Michael and Dennis after the fighting was over and they were no threat to the cops.

THE GOOD NEWS: We just learned that the state appeals court granted Dennis a new trial. During the original trial, the cops claimed that since Dennis had a previous conviction for Obstructing Legal Process (OLP), this proved he liked to fight with cops. What his attorneys tried to introduce was the circumstances of the OLP conviction. During that incident, Dennis was homeless and was sleeping in his car when he was approached by cops who callously towed his car and took him to jail. He argued with the cop, trying to explain that he would not be able to afford to get his car back and that was the only place he had to sleep. As we know from our extensive court observations and casework, the favorite charge of cops who get mad at people for arguing with them is OLP. Being scared and having no money to defend himself, Dennis accepted a plea for the OLP charge.

The state appeals court ruled that since the state was allowed to bring in the OLP charge, Dennis should have been allowed to present the circumstances of that charge. Because he was not allowed to, and because that charge probably impacted the jury's decision, they ruled that Dennis gets a new trial. It would be best if they had overturned the case altogether but we are certainly pleased that at least Dennis has some shot at justice. Props to attorney Stephen Grigsby, who has worked many long hours pro bono to get justice for Dennis.

As soon as we know when the new trial will occur, we'll let you know so you can attend.

Woman handcuffed for eating in D.C. subway station
Jul. 29, 2004. 03:01

WASHINGTON (AP) A government scientist finishing a candy bar on her way into a subway station where eating is prohibited was arrested, handuffed and detained for three hours by transit police.

Stephanie Willett said she was eating a PayDay bar on an escalator descending into a station July 16 when an officer warned her to finish it before entering the station. Both Willett and police agree that she nodded and put the last bit into her mouth before throwing the wrapper into a trash can.

Willett, a 45-year-old Environmental Protection Agency scientist, told radio station WTOP that the officer then followed her into the station, one of several in downtown Washington.

"Don't you have some other crimes you have to take care of?" Willett said she told the officer.

Washington has been under heightened security because of the continuing threat of terrorism. And last week, police declared a citywide crime emergency over rising juvenile crime.

The transit police officer asked for Willett's identification, but Willett kept walking. She said she was then frisked and handcuffed.

"If she had stopped eating, it would have been the end of it and if she had just stopped for the issuance of a citation, she never would have been locked up," Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson said today.

Metrorail has been criticized in the past for heavy-handed enforcement of the eating ban. In 2000, a police officer handcuffed a 12-year-old girl for eating a french fry on a subway platform.

In 2002, one of their officers ticketed a wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy patient for cursing when he was unable to find a working elevator to leave a station. Unflattering publicity eventually led the police to void the ticket.

Willett was the second person arrested this year for eating or drinking, Hanson said. In addition, police have issued 58 tickets and given more than 300 written warnings.

Politicos, cops and intolerance
Nick Coleman, Star Tribune
July 30, 2004

DULUTH -- The Ringsred brothers of Duluth may turn out to be poster boys for the 2004 presidential election.

All three of the teens -- twins Odin and Anders, 14, and their big brother Miles, 18, -- ended up in the back of police cars on the evening of July 13 when President Bush made a campaign stop in Duluth. The Ringsred boys had gone down to the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center to demonstrate against the president and wound up getting free rides to police headquarters, where they were held and interrogated.

If the cops wanted to make an example of them, they succeeded: The Ringsreds offer a splendid example of why you better keep your mouth shut this election. The politicians and police are in no mood to tolerate protest. You raise your voice, you may have to raise bail. And although the Ringsreds got in trouble for giving the Republicans the raspberry, the ongoing curtailment of free speech is completely bipartisan.

At this week's Democratic National Lovefest in Boston, anyone who opposed Democratic dogma was confined to a cagelike dungeon of razor wire and fencing out of sight of the heavily guarded arena in which the Democrats were calling for unity while quashing all internal disagreement. They even handcuffed and dragged off the convention floor an antiwar activist who dared to unfurl a banner against the war in Iraq -- a view that is in accord with the beliefs of most Democrats but which was ruled out of order in front of the TV cameras.

In this climate, any sharp teenager knows that dressing up like Adolf Hitler can push adults to the boiling point.

On July 13, Odin Ringsred, one of the twins, pasted his shaggy hair to one side and painted a Hitler mustache on his face. While Bush was inside the arena speaking to 7,000 supporters, Odin was outside, holding a handmade sign that had the president's name and swastikas on it. It wasn't very subtle. But it was within the rights of Americans who object to the direction their country is going and who want to jab Republicans for blindly supporting the president (that's how Odin sees them).

One of the president's supporters went bonkers when he saw Odin's cardboard sign and grabbed it. The guy tried to tear the sign in two, but he didn't have the hand strength. Odin grabbed it back, and there was some more jostling as the guy tried to push Odin behind him and Odin squirmed back in front of him to wave the sign. Curses started flying, along with insults from all sides, including from the so-called grownups.

"They were yelling, 'Go back to your meth lab,' " Miles says. " 'Get a job,' 'Baby killers' -- things like that."

Miles, it must be noted, was wearing a dress, which he figured was another sure-fire way to irritate Republicans. There is nothing like a teenager for understanding how to needle an adult.

Police have not finished their report on the incident. Deputy Chief James Wright says the cops were not trying to quash protest but just trying to "maintain a safety area." The Ringsreds have not been charged with any crimes, he says, but adds that charges could still come if the officer handling the case decides so. In the meantime, here's the story the Ringsreds tell:

As the president's motorcade prepared to leave, police pushed onlookers, including Bush supporters and protesters, off the street. That's when the tussle over Odin's sign occurred.

After the president had departed, Odin, still steamed by the tug-of-war over the sign, tossed it at the guy who had been grabbing it and said, "Here, you want it so much, take it!"

At that point, a cop came up and asked Odin what his name was. Odin had a perfect 14-year-old wise-guy answer at the ready: He said his name was Adolf.

As fast as you can say "Nazi jokes are verboten," he found himself shoved into the back of a squad car.

Odin's twin, Anders, came over to argue that the cops should be going after the alleged grownup who had tried to swipe Odin's sign. A gaggle of cops answered Anders' pleas by roughly tossing him inside the car with his brother.

"Fine, you can join him," a cop said.

Sixty-seven percent of the Ringsred Gang was now in custody, and the rest of the bunch was not far behind. When Miles realized what had happened, he ran over to the cops and demanded that his little brothers be released. "This is none of your business," a cop told him."Yes it is," Miles insisted.

The cop ordered him to go home and swore at him, Miles says. So Miles responded by making a Nazi salute and saying, "Yes, Mein Fuhrer!"

You can guess what happened next. The only difference was that Miles got his own squad car.

The Ringsreds come from a prominent family. Their father, Eric, is an emergency room doctor and former school board member who was the driving force behind the reinstallation of the Duluth harbor foghorn (loved by many, cursed by some). Eric Ringsred was on hand for the Bush bash but lost track of his kids. He went home, wondering where they were. They were at police headquarters, being photographed and getting the third degree.

The kids told the cops they didn't do anything wrong. The cops told the kids they could be charged with assault (because Odin threw the sign), disorderly conduct and failure to identify themselves. One cop told Miles that his younger brothers would face only juvenile charges but that Miles could end up in an adult jail.

" 'After the doors close, a pretty boy like you would be fresh meat,' " Miles says the cop leered at him.

Two and a half weeks later, Eric Ringsred, the boys' father, is still mad.

"I understand [the cops] trying to do their job, but there's a bigger principle at stake, a free-speech issue," he says. "The boys are mischief-makers, but they're good kids. Odin does a pretty good Hitler impression. But they were no threat to the president. That's clear. So what gives here?"

Eric Ringsred says he's thinking about proposing a city free-speech ordinance that would guarantee protesters the right to be seen and be heard so that future political rallies in Duluth don't turn into sanitized events like the Democratic National Convention. But mostly he just finds himself shaking his head over the heavy-handed response to a band of high-spirited teenage brothers who thought they had a right to their opinions.

"Presidents either have to stay away from here or else they have to allow people who oppose them better access," the elder Ringsred says. "This wasn't like Chicago in 1968. There was no threat of violence. This was just three kids trying to make a point.

"There's a definite lack of humor in this campaign."

That's for sure. This election is humor-impaired and free-speech impaired. But I wouldn't protest too loudly.

Unless you want to go to jail.

Nick Coleman is at [email protected]

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

  • Michelle Gross
    published this page in 2004 Newsletters 2016-09-18 19:57:41 -0500

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