Pharmaceutical Co said Nevada “illegitimately acquired" its Drug to Carry Out its Murders [of its disproportionately Black death row] as Court Stops 1st Execution Using Fentanyl

People Scheduled to be Murdered by Nevada

Nevada Demographics

Although Nevada is only 11.6% Black, Blacks Make Up 36.5% of its death row population.

 From [HERE] and [HERE] Hours before Nevada was set to carry out the country’s first lethal injection using the powerful opioid fentanyl, a judge on Wednesday halted the execution because of a challenge from a drug company that objects to the state’s plan to use one of its products as a sedative for the procedure.

Nevada’s plans to use fentanyl as part of its execution of Scott Dozier — a white man convicted of murder who said he wants the lethal injection to proceed — made it the latest in a string of states that have turned to unprecedented drug combinations or uncommon execution methods as they try to carry out death sentences amid difficulties obtaining drugs

State officials planned to use a three-drug cocktail that includes the sedative midazolam, the opioid fentanyl and a paralytic drug called cisatracurium, which have never been used in an execution.

While some other states have turned to comparatively unknown chemicals, Nevada’s plan stood out for relying on fentanyl, a synthetic painkiller that has helped fuel the country’s ongoing opioid epidemic. Depending on what happens in Dozier’s case, Nebraska ultimately could wind up carrying out the first fentanyl-assisted execution, something that state is seeking to do this summer.

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Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have sued the state and forced it to turn over invoices, revealing smaller purchases of fentanyl over months at a time in an apparent attempt to disguise the purpose of the drug's purchase.

ACLU attorneys and other critics have questioned how the state obtained the drug, according to The Guardian, including whether state officials broke the law to obtain it or whether the multibillion-dollar drug distribution company Cardinal Health ignored evidence the drug sales were intended to be used for executions.

“Using fentanyl in an execution is particularly strange and confusing because of its place in the opioid epidemic,” ACLU legal director Amy Rose said. “But on top of that it’s never been used in an execution before. It’s extremely experimental. There is a very real risk of a botched execution.”

“It’s concerning that Cardinal Health would sell it to the department of corrections if it knew the drugs would be used in executions,” Rose added. She said that the ACLU is seeking to understand whether state authorities “lied to Cardinal in any way."

Fentanyl-laced drugs have been at the center of the opioid abuse epidemic for years, as drug is often sold on the street as a more potent version of heroin or other opioids.

In 2016, 59,000 to 65,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Overdose death numbers have not yet been released for 2017.

Nevada officials faced a late challenge from Alvogen, a pharmaceutical firm that said the state “illegitimately acquired” its drug, the sedative midazolam. That drug has become controversial for its use in executions, and Alvogen highlighted some of those incidents in court, including the bungled 2014 Oklahoma execution that saw an inmate grimace and kick, an Arizona execution that same year that took nearly two hours and the 2016 Alabama execution that had witnesses recounting that the inmate coughed and heaved.

Alvogen asked a judge to block Nevada from using its drug and called for the product to be returned. During a hearing Wednesday, Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, who presides over the civil division of the district court in Clark County, barred the state from using its supply of midazolam in Dozier’s execution, according to a court spokeswoman. Gonzalez also set a status check in the case for September.

According to Nevada’s execution protocol, the state’s plan going into Wednesday was to inject Dozier with three drugs: midazolam to sedate him, fentanyl to cause him to lose consciousness and then cisatracurium to paralyze his muscles. Medical experts warned that the final drug could make the procedure riskier, arguing that if either of the first two drugs are administered improperly or do not work, Dozier could potentially remain conscious while the paralytic renders him unable to move or breathe.

A spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Corrections said the execution “has been postponed” because of the judge’s order and “will not take place until further notice.” She had previously declined to comment on the lawsuit and the company’s claims that the state illegally obtained the drug, citing the pending court hearing. State officials did not immediately file an appeal after Gonzalez’s decision.

Dozier, 47, was convicted of killing a man in a Las Vegas hotel, cutting him into pieces and stealing his money in 2002. Dozier also has been clear about his desire to have the execution carried out.

“Life in prison isn’t a life,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week. “This isn’t living, man. It’s just surviving. … If people say they’re going to kill me, get to it.”

Court says Govt Violated Anarchist's 1st & 2nd Amendment Rights when it Prohibited Him From Distributing Instructions on how to "print" handguns on 3-D printers

From [HERE] Cody Wilson, the Arkansas-born techno-anarchist who distributed digital instructions to "print" handguns on 3-D printers, has apparently won a landmark legal challenge against the U.S. Justice Department, Wired reports.

He may have also unlocked a new era of digital DIY gunmaking that further undermines gun control across the United States and the world—another step toward Wilson's imagined future where anyone can make a deadly weapon at home with no government oversight.

Two months ago, the Department of Justice quietly offered Wilson a settlement to end a lawsuit he and a group of co-plaintiffs have pursued since 2015 against the United States government. Wilson and his team of lawyers focused their legal argument on a free speech claim: They pointed out that by forbidding Wilson from posting his 3-D-printable data, the State Department was not only violating his right to bear arms but his right to freely share information. By blurring the line between a gun and a digital file, Wilson had also successfully blurred the lines between the Second Amendment and the First.

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"If code is speech, the constitutional contradictions are evident," Wilson explained to WIRED when he first launched the lawsuit in 2015. "So what if this code is a gun?”

The former UCA student was featured in a Times cover story in 2014 and drawn subsequent mentions since.

'Now Wilson is making up for lost time. Later this month, he and the nonprofit he founded, Defense Distributed, are relaunching their website Defcad.com as a repository of firearm blueprints they've been privately creating and collecting, from the original one-shot 3-D-printable pistol he fired in 2013 to AR-15 frames and more exotic DIY semi-automatic weapons. The relaunched site will be open to user contributions, too; Wilson hopes it will soon serve as a searchable, user-generated database of practically any firearm imaginable.

All of that will be available to anyone anywhere in the world with an uncensored internet connection, to download, alter, remix, and fabricate into lethal weapons with tools like 3-D printers and computer-controlled milling machines. “We’re doing the encyclopedic work of collecting this data and putting it into the commons,” Wilson says. “What’s about to happen is a Cambrian explosion of the digital content related to firearms.” He intends that database, and the inexorable evolution of homemade weapons it helps make possible, to serve as a kind of bulwark against all future gun control, demonstrating its futility by making access to weapons as ubiquitous as the internet.

Gun control advocates are alarmed.

'"This should alarm everyone," says Po Murray, chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance, a Connecticut-focused gun control group created in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2013. "We’re passing laws in Connecticut and other states to make sure these weapons of war aren’t getting into the hands of dangerous people. They’re working in the opposite direction."

When reporters and critics have repeatedly pointed out those potential consequences of Wilson's work over the last five years, he has argued that he’s not seeking to arm criminals or the insane or to cause the deaths of innocents. But nor is he moved enough by those possibilities to give up what he hopes could be, in a new era of digital fabrication, the winning move in the battle over access to guns.

With his new legal victory and the Pandora's box of DIY weapons it opens, Wilson says he's finally fulfilling that mission. “All this Parkland stuff, the students, all these dreams of ‘common sense gun reforms'? No. The internet will serve guns, the gun is downloadable.” Wilson says now. “No amount of petitions or die-ins or anything else can change that."

Study Finds that Bank of America, M&T Bank, PNC & Wells Fargo are Ripping Off Mostly Black Customers in Baltimore with High Overdraft & ATM Fees

From [HERE] If you have a bank account in Baltimore, there's a good chance you are paying higher overdraft and ATM fees than your friends and family in places like Boston, Denver and New York. And if you live in Baltimore there's a 64% chance you are Black. [MORE

A recent study by DepositAccounts.com ranked Baltimore No. 10 on its list of 50 cities with the highest bank fees. The study uses data about the ATM fees, overdraft fees and monthly service fees from more than 1,700 banks and credit unions across the country to determine the rankings.

Baltimore ranks No. 6 for third-party ATM fees, No. 6 for overdraft fees and No. 36 for average monthly fees.

The average third-party fee in Baltimore was $2.43. The lowest was Oklahoma City, which has an average ATM fee of $1.31. The highest was Philadelphia where ATM fees cost on average $2.58. The national average was $2.28.

Overdraft fees on average cost $34.91 in Baltimore, compared to $29.01 in Salt Lake City. The most expensive was Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where overdraft fees cost $36.14. The national average was $33.97.

The type of financial institutions that dominate a metro area contributes greatly to the variance in overdraft fees, according to the study. When credit unions make up a large percentage of the banking institutions in a city, the average overdraft fees are less than when banks make up a large percentage.

Average overdraft fee from credit unions ($29.22) are less than the average at brick-and-mortar banks ($34.91).

In Baltimore, big banks like Bank of America, M&T Bank, PNC and Wells Fargo dominate market share. While credit unions are generally growing deposits, they are still far behind banks.

When it comes to monthly service fees, Baltimore ranks more favorably. On average monthly service fees cost $3.75 in Baltimore, according to the report. Those same fees cost just $2.39 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The highest was New Orleans, where monthly fees cost $7.17. The national average was $4.58.

Baltimore overall ranked higher than major cities like Chicago (No. 12), New York (No. 16), Denver (No. 39) and Boston (No. 40). The metro area with the smallest bank fee burden score was Oklahoma City, while the highest-ranked city was West Palm Beach, Florida.

Washington, D.C. also ranked high on the list at No. 8 overall. D.C. ranked No. 9 for overdraft fees, No. 8 for ATM fees and No. 27 for monthly service charges.

The study also shows consumers will benefit from lower checking account fees by choosing online banks and credit unions over brick-and-mortar banks.

For all three fees, online banks had the lowest fee averages. The average at credit unions’ averages were higher, and the average fees at brick-and-mortar banks were the highest.

Report says Small Community Banks Punish Blacks & Latinos with Higher Balance & Opening Deposit Requirements & Fee structures

Cheaper to maintain a checking account opened in a white neighborhood. From [HERE] Small banks punish African American and Latinos with higher balance requirements and fee structures, report researchers.

These discriminatory practices—captured in national headlines and alleged against large banks—are more common at small community banks, researchers says.

“Small and community banks’ practices sometimes receive less scrutiny given their public perception, limited geographic scope, and lower share of deposits,” says Terri Friedline, a researcher at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, coauthor of the report with colleague Jacob William Faber, a New York University sociologist.

When the spotlight has focused on many small banks, the research indicates unfair practices against people of color. The analysis of data came from a national sample of 1,344 banks—mostly small and community banks.

The minimum opening deposit is substantially higher in majority black neighborhoods ($80.60) and in neighborhoods without a racial majority ($97) than in white neighborhoods ($68.50). Opening deposit requirements are almost the same in majority Latino ($68.60) as in white neighborhoods.

Bias against hiring African Americans hasn’t budged

Researchers also report that it’s cheaper to maintain a checking account opened in a white neighborhood. A minimum balance of only $625.50 is required to avoid fees in majority white neighborhoods, compared to $748.80 in majority Latino neighborhoods, $870.50 in majority black neighborhoods, and $957.10 in other neighborhoods.

Other key findings:

  • Racial bias among tellers means that checking account costs and fees depend on whom consumers talk to at the bank. Tellers in places with small white populations report significantly higher overdraft fees and greater likelihoods of using credit or screening agencies than tellers in places with large white populations.
  • Segregation substantially shapes the cost of banking. Compared to white neighborhoods, the average checking account costs and fees are $262.09 higher for Latinos, $190.09 higher for African-Americans, and $25.53 higher for Asian-Americans.
  • Banks’ costs and fees further limit the economic power of communities of color by requiring more earnings to be sequestered in checking accounts where they cannot be used. The average white American needs to deposit about 3 percent of a paycheck in order to open a checking account in their neighborhood and keep 28 percent of a paycheck deposited to avoid a fee or account closure. African Americans, by comparison, need to initially deposit 6 percent of a paycheck and keep 60 percent unused in their account. Comparable values for Latinos are 6 percent and 54 percent; for Asian-Americans, the values are 3 percent and 22 percent.

“Given these findings, financial system regulations and strong consumer protections are necessary for guarding consumers and communities of color against being charged more for inclusion in the financial system and participation in the economy,” Faber says.

The findings appear in a report from New America.

A Gang w/in a Gang: Lawsuit says Secret Clique of LA County Sheriffs Share the Same Tattoo & a Genocidal Hatred of Blacks

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From [HERE] For decades, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has struggled to combat secretive cliques of deputies who bonded over aggressive, often violent police work and branded themselves with matching tattoos.

A federal judge called out the problem nearly 30 years ago, accusing deputies of running a "neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang" named the Vikings within the Lynwood station. Others followed with names such as the Regulators, Grim Reapers, Rattlesnakes and the Jump Out Boys. Inside the county’s central jail, the 2000 Boys and 3000 Boys ran roughshod over the lockup’s toughest floors.

Now, despite past attempts by sheriff’s officials to discourage internal cliques, fresh allegations have arisen of deputies in the department’s Compton station adorned with matching skull tattoos.

One deputy acknowledged in a recent deposition that he and 10 to 20 of his colleagues at the station had the tattoos but denied there was a formal clique.

Attorneys representing the family of a black man shot by white deputies during a 2016 foot pursuit have used the existence of the tattoos to argue there is a clique tied to the killing, which they allege was racially motivated.

“In addition to investigating the police shooting, the department should also look at the culture,” said Alex Busansky, a former prosecutor who served on a county commission that in 2012 found that the department’s tolerance of cliques contributed to excessive force in the jails. “A place where 20 police officers receive matching tattoos is a place where there is a mentality of us-versus-them, and that on its face is concerning.”

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida declined to comment on the allegations, citing the pending litigation, but said in a statement that the agency expects deputies to meet high standards of integrity and appearance. She also acknowledged they have the right to free expression.

“Our department policy requires deputies to cover tattoos, which have become part of the cultural norm. However, when it comes to their conduct and their use of tactics, we have multiple systems of review and accountability both internally and externally. Every critical incident is exhaustively analyzed,” the statement said.

The controversy focuses on a deposition given in May by Deputy Samuel Aldama, one of the deputies involved in the 2016 shooting who at the time was assigned to the Compton station. Under oath, Aldama described a tattoo on his calf as a skull with a rifle and a military-style helmet with flames surrounding it. On the helmet are the letters “C P T” for Compton. He said he got the tattoo in June 2016, about two months before the deadly shooting.

Aldama said he knew of other deputies at the station who had tattoos like his, according to an excerpt of the deposition transcript reviewed by The Times. But he repeatedly denied that the inked art signified membership in a club.

Instead, he said, “working hard” on the job — making arrests, answering calls — was the only requirement for getting the tattoo. He described vaguely the selection process, saying that when deputies in the station determined someone in their ranks was deserving of the honor, they passed along the contact information of an artist who would make the tattoo.

In a court hearing Monday, the attorney for the dead man’s family, John Sweeney, raised the tattoos and a response Aldama gave in the deposition, saying that together they showed the deputy harbored racist feelings about African Americans when he opened fire — a serious allegation that a lawyer for the Sheriff’s Department denied.

We’ve “uncovered another one of those cliques,” like the Vikings, Sweeney told the judge.

“There truly is a history of tattoos in the Sheriff’s Department, but [Sweeney] has yet to prove that this is anything more than a station tattoo,” said Harold Becks, the county’s attorney. He did not respond to requests later on Monday for comment.

At the deposition, along with questions about his tattoo, Sweeney asked Aldama, “Do you have any ill feelings toward African Americans in general?” according to excerpts of the deposition reviewed by The Times. 45 seconds went by without a response. [MORE]

After asking the attorney to repeat the question, Aldama said he did have feelings. The attorney asked him to elaborate.

“They’re just human beings, sir,” Aldama replied after a long silence.

Sweeney asked again if the deputy had any ill feelings, emphasizing “ill.” Aldama, after another lengthy pause, said that he did.

About a minute later, Aldama told Sweeney he had not understood the questions about African Americans.

“I don't have any ill feelings,” the deputy said.

Seven deputies were fired in 2013 after an investigation into the Jump Out Boys, a group of gang enforcement officers who were accused of glorifying shootings by deputies. Their signature tattoo was a skeleton holding a revolver. Whenever a deputy in the group was involved in a shooting, he would earn extra ink of smoke coming out of the gun.

Deputy cliques were also criticized by the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, a blue-ribbon group that issued harsh findings in 2012 about systemic dysfunction in the department, including the use of excessive force against inmates. The commission recommended that the agency ban visible tattoos associated with the groups because they had sometimes been used to reward aggressive behavior. In one episode, a deputy in the 2000 Boys broke the eye socket of a complacent inmate during a beating to “earn his ink” — a tattoo with the Roman numeral “II.”

At his federal trial on obstruction-of-justice charges in 2016, former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka was assailed by prosecutors for being a tattooed member of the Vikings. On the stand, Tanaka denied allegations he had encouraged aggressive, improper tactics by the Viking members, saying the group did not represent anything sinister.

The latest controversy emerged in a legal battle over the Aug. 25, 2016, killing of Donta Taylor.

About 8:30 p.m., Aldama and his partner, Mizrain Orrego, were assigned to a gang-suppression detail in a marked car when they saw Taylor, 31, walking on Wilmington Avenue in an area known to be controlled by the Cedar Bloc Pirus gang, according to a district attorney’s review of the shooting. Taylor was wearing a red hat with the letter C on it, which the deputies took as a sign he was affiliated with the gang. They told investigators he appeared to be holding something in his waistband, the report said.

The deputies told investigators that when they pulled alongside Taylor to ask if he was on parole or probation, he pulled a handgun from his shorts and ran, according to the report. Both deputies chased Taylor on foot and called for backup on their radios, saying they were in pursuit of a man with a gun.

In an attempt to corner him, the deputies separated and pinned him in along a wash. Orrego, who was positioned around a corner from his partner, said he fired several times when he saw Taylor approaching with a gun in his hand. Hearing the shots and seeing Taylor run into view, Aldama then fired as many a dozen rounds. Orrego said he fired again two or three times when he saw Taylor turning back in his direction. An autopsy showed Taylor had been shot six times.

Despite an extensive search, no weapon was recovered. Sheriff’s officials said tests on Taylor’s pockets and waistband turned up gunshot residue that was consistent with a handgun.

After reviewing the shooting, the district attorney’s office found the deputies acted reasonably and should face no criminal charges.

Efforts to contact Orrego and Aldama were unsuccessful. Nishida said she would alert the deputies that a Times reporter wanted to speak with them.

After the hearing Monday, Sweeney cited an arrest the two deputies made months before the killing that he said mirrored what happened to Taylor.

In January 2016, the deputies rode their patrol car up to Sheldon Lockett, who was standing with a friend in front of his godmother’s house, and pulled their handguns on him, according to a federal lawsuit Sweeney filed for Lockett.

The lawsuit alleged that although he was unarmed and not doing anything iilegal, Lockett fled out of fear. The deputies chased him and radioed falsely that they were chasing a man with a gun, the lawsuit claims. When they found him, Aldama and Orrego severely beat and Tased Lockett while repeatedly using a racial epithet, according to the lawsuit. Then, with Lockett subdued and in custody, one of the deputies “rammed the end of a police baton” into Lockett’s eye socket.

The county has yet to respond formally to the lawsuit.

Looking to bolster his legal claim that sheriff’s officials share culpability in Taylor’s death, Sweeney said the department failed to investigate the deputies after Lockett’s mother complained about the arrest.

“Had they investigated this, Donta Taylor would be alive today,” Sweeney told The Times.

Racists Function as an Auxiliary Police Force & Dial 911 To Place You in Greater Confinement: After False 911 Call White Minn Cops Falsely Arrested & Point Guns at 4 Black Kids

From [HERE] Brianna Lindell, who witnessed and filmed the incident at Minnehaha Regional Park, said on Facebook that she'd previously seen a white male who looked about 17 years old "spouting racial slurs at them and aggressing them with a metal trash can lid and saying he had a knife."

Lindell said the white male was with a woman who was using her phone and believes that that woman later made the 911 call.

Onlookers "approached and seemed to deescalate the situation," Lindell said.

Lindell did not immediately respond to request for comment from BuzzFeed News.

Two were put in the back of the cop car, and the other two were seated on the ground in front of it.

In a now-viral video of the incident, one of the boys repeatedly asks if he can put on his shirt, which was near him on the ground, because he was getting bitten by mosquitos.

"My partner tossed him his shirt and a cop jumped out of the squad car and started yelling at us that we were interfering with an arrest," Lindell wrote on Facebook.

The officers ignored the shirtless boy's multiple requests and eventually moved the two boys from the ground into the cop car.

Lindell said she asked one of the officers "why he was arresting the kids as they’d done nothing wrong and he said they had received a call that the kids had a gun."

An officer, who speaks to Lindell in the video, said the handcuffed boys were "not under arrest."

Lindell said onlookers told her that "both cops had jumped out of their cars, guns already drawn, with the guns right in the children’s faces."

Police said the 911 caller had "reported four males holding knives and sticks," "stated one suspect said he had a gun in his backpack," and claimed "the suspects were assaulting the 911 caller’s boyfriend."

One of the officers did point a gun at the boys, police confirmed.

Three of the boys were released at the park unharmed, police said, with the fourth boy being deemed a runaway and brought to the Juvenile Supervision Center. He has since been released.

The incident, as well as the "validity of the 911 call," is now being investigated. Police said they "were unable to contact, on scene or by phone, the 911 caller or the 911 caller’s boyfriend."

Witness descriptions of the incident "were inconsistent with the 911 callers account of the incident," police said.

Making a false report of a crime "is a misdemeanor-level criminal offense" in Minnesota, they said. [MORE]

'They Don’t Serve Us & We Can’t Fire Them:' White Cop Fired For Calling Black People “Porch Monkeys” at Crime Scene is Rehired by Aurora City Commission After Appeal

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From [HERE] A Colorado police officer who was fired after being caught on video using a racial slur last year will reportedly be rehired by the city commission.

In body camera footage obtained by local ABC affiliate Denver7 in June 2017, former Aurora Police Lt. Charles DeShazer can be heard saying, “We got the Alabama porch monkeys all contained.”

DeShazer reportedly made the remark at the scene of an officer-involved shooting and was referring to a crowd of African-Americans near the site of the shooting.

The slur was picked up by body cam and two other supervisors, according to a Facebook post shared by Chief Nick Metz on Tuesday. [MORE]

City Approves $3.4 Million Stop & Frisk Settlement: Suit Says Milwaukee Cops Made More Than 350,000 Unlawful Stops of Black & Latino Men

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No Freedom of Movement in Police State. Retired Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, the racist suspect presided over the city's police department during the period when the ACLU alleges it stopped over 350,000 people without reasonable suspicion. In 2012 the community wanted him fired as Flynn acknowledged that white Milwaukee cops did not act appropriately in the custodial death of Derek Williams, an unarmed Black man. Officers first crushed Williams ribs during a violent arrest and then ignored him for 15 minutes as he begged for their help in the back of their police cruiser - where he died. He suffocated to death while handcuffed, naked from a strip search. It is captured on graphic video (graphic video below, no sound for first minute). [MORE] 

From [HERE] The city of Milwaukee has approved a $3.4 million settlement over its police department's alleged stop-and-frisk practices, more than a year after a lawsuit accused Milwaukee officers of targeting black and Latino people through racial profiling.

Milwaukee police made more than 350,000 unlawful stops between 2010 and 2017, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and its Wisconsin chapter. The ACLU sued on behalf of six African-American or Latino plaintiffs who had been stopped – in some cases, multiple times — without reasonable suspicion.

The federal class-action lawsuit claimed the plaintiffs were the victims of a "vast and unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program," according to ACLU press releases.

Former Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn has denied the use of stop-and-frisk practices, but acknowledged his department's policy of traffic stops in areas with high crime rates.

Along with the cash payout, the settlement will require police officers to release data about all their stops to the public. Officers will also be trained on racial profiling issues, and law enforcement will be subject to oversight from an independent consultant.

As WUWM's Marti Mikkelson reports, Mayor Tom Barrett is expected to sign the settlement, which passed the city's Common Council on Tuesday by a vote of 12-2:

Alderwoman Milele Coggs voted in favor of it — she says she hopes it closes a sad chapter in the city's history.

"So that we never again are back at the same situation that we were at, where there is even a possibility that whoever is chief instituting practices and policies with the department that end up with us being in lawsuits where there is even the suggestion of racial profiling. That's an end I would think we all want to get to, to prevent future lawsuits," Coggs says.

Mikkelson reports that Bob Donovan, one of two aldermen who cast a dissenting vote, was concerned about the amount of money the city has paid out for police misconduct settlements, which he quoted at $23 million since 2015. He also registered concern that the settlement could make police scared to take action for fear of legal reprisal.

The Milwaukee Police Department has long been under scrutiny for its treatment of black residents.

In a recent high-profile incident, Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown, an African American, filed a federal lawsuit in June accusing police of unlawful arrest when officers used a stun gun on him over a parking violation.

The city also settled a $2.3 million lawsuit last year with the family of Dontre Hamilton, who was shot dead by police in 2014.

And as NPR's Gene Demby reported in 2013, more than half of all black men in their 30s and 40s in Milwaukee have been incarcerated — and almost two-thirds of them come from the city's six poorest ZIP codes.

Michigan Cops Seized $13 Million in Cash & Property of 1,000 People —Without Ever Convicting and/or Charging Them with Crimes

From [HERE] Close to 1,000 people in Michigan had their property seized by police or government officials last year even though they were neither convicted nor sometimes even charged with committing a crime.

That's the bad news. The good news is that we have this information at all. In 2015 Michigan passed legislation that mandated local law enforcement agencies report more information to the state about the extent of their seizures. The Department of State Police just released its first report that encompassed all agencies for a full calendar year.

Law enforcement agencies across the state seized more than $13 million in cash and property in 2017. And while State Police Director Kriste Etue claims in the report's introduction that all those seized assets were "amassed by drug traffickers," that's not really what the numbers show.

Tom Gantert, managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential, which is published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, drilled down into the report and noted that 956 people who had their money or property seized last year were not convicted of a crime. Of those, 736 people were not even charged with a crime for which property forfeiture was permitted. And yet such forfeiture happened, quite frequently. To put it in larger context, it happened to 14 percent of the people who had their stuff taken.

Police and prosecutors are able to essentially legally steal people's property under the process of civil asset forfeiture. Under "civil" forfeiture, criminal convictions are not necessary. Instead, police and prosecutors basically accuse the property itself of being connected to a crime. Using lower evidentiary thresholds and complicated bureaucratic and administrative procedures, civil forfeiture subverts the typical legal process by forcing citizens to prove themselves and their property innocent of crimes rather than forcing prosecutors to prove guilt.

Thus citizens can have their stuff taken by the government without being first convicted. There's been a growing backlash to the use of civil asset forfeiture, and some states are attempting to restrain the police by requiring convictions before money and property can be taken. Michigan does not currently require a conviction, but some lawmakers are working on changing the rules. The state's House passed a bill in May that would require convictions before forcing somebody to forfeit property and cash valued at less than $50,000. It has not yet been taken up by the state Senate.

Perhaps knowing that more than one out of 10 folks who have their property taken from them aren't even convicted might be helpful information to convince senators to vote for change. One of the difficulties in pushing for asset forfeiture reforms is that poor transparency requirements have left citizens unclear about how extensive the practice is. Police and prosecutors typically insist that the seizures are all from drug traffickers and other criminals. Without strong reporting guidelines, citizens have no way of knowing the true circumstances of the seizures and where the money is going.

Now, thanks to Michigan's new reporting law, we do know, and it's not a good look for Michigan. Gantert notes that there are currently more than 2,000 folks in Michigan who face having their property seized while charges are still pending. If the law isn't changed, some of those folks may lose their property or money even if they're never convicted.

Neighbors Report Child Trafficking & Find Gov’t Contractors Holding [kidnapped] Latino Kids In ‘Black Site’ Prison

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From [HERE] When concerned neighbors called police because they believed dozens of non-white children were being trafficked in their neighborhood, they learned that the children were actually being held in a black site prison operated by defense contractors.

A vacant office building with dark windows in a quiet neighborhood has become a subject of controversy after residents began documenting the dozens of children who were transported to the building in white vans, and then never seen again.

The building is not licensed to hold children or to act as a shelter, and it is owned by MVM Inc., a defense contractor that once provided guards for CIA facilities in Iraq and has made nearly $250 million transporting immigrant children since 2014, according to a report from Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

The company’s website specifically claims that “the current services MVM provides consist of transporting undocumented families and unaccompanied children to Department of Health and Human Services designated facilities—we have not and currently do not operate shelters or any other type of housing for minors.”

However, Lianna Dunlap told Reveal that she became suspicious about what was going on at the office building in her neighborhood that is owned by MVM when she noticed new security cameras and extra locks on the exterior last month—and then saw several white vans transporting small children to the building.

There’s been times where I drive by and I just start crying because, you know, it’s right behind my house. I don’t know and I think that’s the worst part—not knowing what’s actually going on in there and just hoping that they’re OK,” Dunlap said.

Neighbors claimed that they saw pallets of water and boxes of food dropped off at the building, but they never saw the children who were escorted inside, and the darkened windows made them concerned that the children were victims of trafficking, and that they were being harmed inside.

Another neighbor, Kristen Brown, told Reveal that as a mother of a 2-year-old son, she was immediately concerned about the lack of space inside the building and the lack of access to sunlight.

“My kid has the ability to run around and play, and there are 40 kids in that place that I don’t know what you’re doing with,” Brown said. “That, as a mom, it doesn’t feel right.”

Brown also said she tried to talk to employees to ask them what was going on. She claimed that when she asked one employee what kind of business they were conducting, he said “Transportation,” and when she questioned what they were transporting, he said, “Humans.”

When concerned neighbors called the police to report the suspicious activity, they were told that it was completely legal and authorized by the government. When asked for a statement, Phoenix Police Sgt. Vince Lewis claimed that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed that MVM was “contracted to perform that transport.”

The report noted that when asked for a statement, a spokesperson for MVM initially pointed to the claim that the company does not run shelters or childcare facilities. However, when the spokesperson learned that neighbors had video evidence of the children being escorted into the building, the tone changed and the spokesperson insisted that the building was being used as “a temporary holding place” for children before they are transported elsewhere.

That “temporary” holding place held dozens of children for at least 3 weeks before the neighbors claimed that they saw five unmarked 12-passenger vans arrive at the building and fill up with children.

Dunlap told Reveal that as soon as the workers saw her watching the scene from her kitchen window, they moved their vehicles in an attempt to block her view. [MORE]

In Big Grab of Non-Whites 'who Look illegal' Racist Trump administration may have separated a child & parent who are both US citizens

From [HERE] The Trump administration may have separated a parent and child who were both US citizens, the government said in a court filing on Tuesday.

  • The administration is reuniting some three dozen young immigrant children it separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border, but missed Tuesday's deadline to reunite the full 102 children under the age of 5.
  • One of those children can't be reunited because the parent's location has been unknown for more than a year — and they may both be US citizens, Tuesday's court filing said.

The Trump administration said in a court filing Tuesday that it was on track to reunite 38 young immigrant children who were forcibly separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border — though dozens more would need more time.

A federal judge had set Tuesday as the deadline for the government to reunite 102 children in its custody under the age of five, but the Trump administration provided a list of reasons that the remaining 64 children wouldn't be reunited on time.

In one stunning example, the government listed one child who "cannot be reunified at this time because the parent's location has been unknown for more than a year," and "records show the parent and child might be US citizens."

The court filing didn't clarify the circumstances of that child's separation or why it occurred so long ago. The majority of the family separations took place in recent months after the Trump administration implemented its "zero tolerance" policy to criminally prosecute adults who cross the border illegally.

The Health and Human Services department told Business Insider in a statement that it wouldn't comment on specific cases of young immigrants in its custody.

Here's what's happening with the remaining 101 children under the age of five:

  • 4 children were reunified before Tuesday's deadline
  • 34 are expected to be reunited on Tuesday
  • 16 more are expected to be reunited on Tuesday if DNA matching verifies the adults' parentage
  • 1 more is expected to be reunited on Tuesday after the parents' criminal background check results are resolved
  • 2 children can't be reunited yet — one because a parent is being treated for a "communicable disease," and one because a parent currently plans to live in a household where an adult has an outstanding warrant for sexually abusing a child
  • 10 can't be reunited yet because they're in criminal custody by state, county, or federal authorities, though they may be reunified upon their release
  • 14 children can't be reunited at all because the adults either have serious criminal histories, were determined to not actually be the children's parents, or face credible evidence of child abuse
  • 12 children's parents have already been deported and must arrange for their children to also be deported
  • 8 children's parents are living in the US and are eligible for reunification, but the government needs more time to screen for safety and "suitability"

Government Told Non-White Immigrant Parents to Pay for DNA Tests to Get Kids Back, Advocate Says

From [HERE] U.S. government officials recently told four immigrant women that they must pay for DNA tests in order to be reunited with their children, according to the shelter that housed the women.

The tests are the latest ad hoc effort by the Trump administration to reunite families it had separated—in some cases because authorities took documents from adults proving they are related to their children. The tests are being administered by a private contractor on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees the care and housing of children. HHS has refused to name the contractor, which may be a violation of federal law.

“None of them have the money [for the tests], so it’s going to fall back on us to push back on that,” said Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, an immigrant shelter in El Paso where the women are staying.

Three of the women are mothers of the children, Garcia said, and the fourth is attempting to reunite with her brother, a three and half-year-old boy.

Garcia said that the tests likely cost money that many immigrants entering the country with little more than the clothes on their backs don’t have. Iliana Holguin, an immigration attorney in El Paso who works with Annunciation House, said the government made some of her clients pay between $700 to $800 to prove their relationship to a relative as part of their citizenship cases.

“The government wants the parents to foot the bill for the DNA testing when they’re the ones that caused the need for DNA testing,” Holguin said. “It’s incredible.”

The Office of Refugee Resettlement, responsible for the DNA testing, told The Daily Beast it “provides DNA testing at no cost to verify parentage.”

ORR requires DNA testing in some cases to verify adult immigrants are related to children in ORR’s custody, before the children can be released to the adults who have either been paroled or are to be deported. The tests are often required, according Garcia, when parents’ have had their paperwork regarding their children taken by Customs and Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (CBP and ICE did not immediately respond to requests for comment.)

“When these families come in, Customs and Border Protection takes away the documents from parents and puts them in their file,” Garcia said. “In the cases where they’ve been separated from their children, ORR then says, ‘You’re going to need to provide the documents that CBP took.’”

And when the immigrants can’t, Garcia said, ORR tells parents they must take a DNA test.

It’s unclear how many immigrants have been told they’d have to pay for DNA tests. Other immigration attorneys reached by The Daily Beast said their clients had not been asked to pay for DNA tests.

Greg Chen of the American Immigration Lawyers Association called the tests a “delay tactic” by a government that is “primarily interested in detaining the children and parents to put pressure on them to accept deportation before they have the opportunity to get a fair hearing on their asylum claims and other claims for relief.”

“In a specific case when there’s evidence of fraud DNA testing may be warranted, but it should not be done across the board especially when proof of familial relationship can be demonstrated in other ways,” Chen said.

Those other ways include the government documents that are taken from immigrants once they’re caught for crossing the border, verification that a simple phone call from ORR to CBP or ICE could achieve, Garcia said.

“But when I go to ORR, they say, ‘We don’t. [MORE]

Fed Court says Although TSA Cops Wear Badges, Uniform & Call Themselves Officers They are Not Cops & Thus are Immune From Suits for Molesting or Falsely Arresting Travelers

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From [HERE] The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [official website] is immune from certain claims brought by passengers alleging wrongdoing.

In a 2-1 ruling, the court held that TSA officers are not “investigative or law enforcement officers,” and therefore are protected by federal law against certain tort claims.

The Court ruled that TSA agents can not be sued for molesting or falsely arresting air travelers.

Citing a previous ruling, the court noted that, “[r]einforcing the distinction we recognized in Vanderklok, the [Aviation and Transportation Security Act] frequently distinguishes between ’employees’ who conduct administrative searches and ‘law enforcement officers.'”:

[Amicus for petitioner] argues that TSOs must qualify as “law enforcement officers” because of their title—they are “transportation security officers”—and because they wear a badge that labels them as “officers.” We are not persuaded that the word “officer” has this talismanic property.

In his dissent Judge Thomas Ambro said:

[M]y colleagues … equate airport screenings with routine administrative inspections, even though the former involve rigorous and thorough searches that often extend to an individual’s physical person. Their opinion leaves several plaintiffs without a remedy, even if a TSO assaults them, wrongfully detains them, or fabricates criminal charges against them.

Wednesday's decision was a defeat for Nadine Pellegrino, a business consultant from Boca Raton, Florida. She and her husband had sued for false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution over a July 2006 altercation at Philadelphia International Airport.

If this ruling does not make Americans stand up and demand a change then expect things to get worse, much worse.

The courts have essentially allowed DHS to do whatever it wants, even if that means creating a watch list of complainers.

Two months ago the New York Times warned Americans that the TSA is creating a watch list of anyone that complains about being groped.  

A five-page directive obtained by The New York Times said actions that pose physical danger to security screeners — or other contact that the agency described as “offensive and without legal justification” — could land travelers on the watch list, which was created in February and is also known as a “95 list.”

It is time to face reality, the courts are working with the Federal Government to destroy our Bill of Rights.

Everyone's rights are being threatened when government agents are allowed to molest and falsely arrest people. [MORE]

To Manipulate Public Perception & Create Pretense of Providing Safety the Police Foundation Now Calls Drones “Unmanned Aircraft Systems"

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From [HERE] The Police Foundation doesn’t want the police to call drones “drones.” Because of the public’s association with “military-style weapons like the Predator,” the organization’s 311 page report reads, the term “drone” is “a major obstacle to law enforcement’s ability to convince the public” that police drone programs “could actually increase public safety, not jeopardize it.”

Instead, the report—“Community Policing and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS): Guidelines to Enhance Community Trust,” published in 2016—suggests the clunky “Unmanned Aircraft System” as an alternative. UAS was coined by the Department of Defense in 2001, now repurposed by police, to make military weapons more palatable. 

To market the drone as part of a public safety system instead of a weapon, the first step is to convince a suspicious public that it isn’t a weapon, but a friendly flying gadget. Commercial dronemaker DJI has made this a priority after announcing a partnership with body camera manufacturer Axon, formerly Taser. Axon is now offering law enforcement agencies two surveillance drones: the Phantom 4 Pro, eggshell white and equipped with image recognition software; and the more expensive Matrice 200 series, metallic grey and tested for resilience to harsh winds and rain. DJI furnishes the drones, while Axon integrates the data they collect with Evidence.com, its cloud storage system used for managing body camera footage.

DJI’s marketing features videos of the Matrice used to film exotic vacation and rescue lost hikers. But, anti-surveillance activists are concerned framing drones around cinematic rescue missions obscures the privacy concerns when drones are used for policing. 

This is a chief concern among police technology experts: is technology defined by how it’s used in day-to-day or extreme scenarios? Gizmodo spoke with representatives from both DJI and Axon, including members of its’ newly formed Artificial Intelligence Ethics Board, and to understand a simple question: What problem does police drone surveillance actually solve? 

Life or death

“I don’t think anybody would question that if it’s a real life-or-death search for a missing child that you would allow a drone to fly anywhere it needs to,” Adam Lisberg, Corporate Communication Director for DJI, told Gizmodo, “the same way that you would hopefully allow searchers access to any property they need to find that child.”

The Matrice 200 series is optimized for search and rescue missions, tested for wind and rain resistance and capable of carrying payloads of food or radios. In rescue missions, Lisberg explains, drones could survey specific areas, using long-range livestreaming cameras and thermal imaging to detect survivors or missing children without expending the manpower of launching a full search party. 

“These drones are going to get more popular,” Steve Tuttle, Vice President of Strategic Communications for Axon, told Gizmodo. “They’re ever expanding, gonna be used for more crime scene evidence, for more search rescues, [and are] gonna be used to check out what are called ‘fatal funnels.’”

“Fatal funnels” are confined spaces, stairwells or hallways usually, that trap police without cover. In 2012, a Utah man shot six members of a strike team, killing one. The prosecutor on the case said he planned to “go out in a blaze of glory,” hiding while police cleared the lower floors of his home, then opening fire once they entered a narrow hallway. Drones, for example the Phantom 4 Pro with its small size, object detection, and infrared systems, could scout dangerous areas ahead of officers.

“It’s a way to see things safely,” Tuttle adds.

No rules

Like many police technologies, there’s no unifying nationwide policy on drones. How each department will actually use drones is not entirely clear. The FAA requires certifications and other restrictions (piloting near jails or airports is forbidden, for example) but doesn’t offer specific guidance on most police uses. Without this clear legal framework, police drone policies vary widely from agency to agency. 

“We don’t have a good system for police to share best practices. It’s still an antiquated word-of-mouth [system],” Jim Bueermann, AI/Ethics board member and President of the Police Foundation, which released the 2016 report, told Gizmodo. “What vendors can do, because they know a lot about the products and because they interact with so many agencies—they are a wonderful resource of best practices. It’s hard to get multiple lessons from multiple police departments at the same time. These vendors serve as de facto knowledge centers around best practices.” 

Axon and DJI don’t take specific policy positions, though both encourage police work with communities to form their own regulations. This creates recommendations and best practices, but no enforcement, leaving an opening for wildly vacillating uses. 

In Kentucky, city officials proposed using drones in coordination with gunshot detection technology. Under the system proposed in a federal grant application, if acoustic surveillance devices detected the sound of gunfire, they’d record their location and send the coordinates to drones. The proposal came in response to a longstanding problem: People in areas with high crime don’t call 911 when they hear gunshots. Drones could theoretically capture evidence of suspects and witnesses, but does sending in drones “enhance community trust,” to borrow the Police Foundation’s phrase, if there is none?

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel backed a bill that would permit police drones to surveil protestors. Protests can turn violent, surely, but they’re also a First Amendment protected activity. Drone surveillance could deter people from attending, for fear of being surveilled by the government, especially if it is the government they’re protesting. 

In May, Oakland passed what the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation consider to be among the “strongest” anti-surveillance regulations, requiring police to get city council approval before acquiring new surveillance devices or even soliciting funding. The ordinance requires public hearings, invalidates many NDAs, offers whistleblower protections, and limits data retention. This is where the power of framing the devices comes into full view. The public may want drones because they’re framed as safety devices, but then police can use them as surveillance devices. 

Can regulation help?

“I think that the police technology space is screaming for regulation,” Barry Friedman, director of the Policing Project at New York University School of Law and another AI/Ethics board member, told Gizmodo. “If vendors and police departments do not start to self-regulate, then they will at some point, in the not too distant future, find themselves regulated.”

Friedman hypothesized a regulatory scheme outside of a governing body that combines third-party audits, self-regulation, and specific-use warrants, getting permission from a judge if police wanted to use drones for anything outside of normal operations. He said, “I think it would behoove the policing tech industry to do some self-regulation, to think about the kinds of things that it builds, for example—whether they build accountability into the item.”

One example is Axon’s “buffering” feature, which instantly records the last 30 seconds before a body camera is turned on. The feature caught a Baltimore cop seemingly planting drugs that he then turned on his camera to later “discover” and use as evidence. The same feature has led to multiple officers unwittingly filming themselves during acts of police misconduct. 

Built-in accountability isn’t perfect, however. Last year, body cameras failed to record the death of Justine Damond, shot by police in Minneapolis. State policy required officers to turn on their cameras during investigations. They did not. Via the “Axon Signal” device Minnesota police purchased, body cameras can be configured to turn on automatically in conjunction with dashboard cameras or opening car doors. The feature wasn’t enabled and footage of Damond’s death, or the actions taken by the responding officers, was never recorded. Technology and policy can be extremely helpful, but no foolproof in regards to officer misuse, a point that some critics feels is being overlooked. 

Hamid Khan, Campaign Coordinator for the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, says agencies have a long history of using anomalies to obscure averages. Khan argues that while the terms of the public drone debate is framed around more rescue and prevention uses, agencies will always leave the door open for more troubling uses, even if policy initially prohibits it.

“The capacities and capabilities [of drones] need to be seen not just in that single tool, but in how it fits into larger architectures of surveillance and information gathering.”

Rather than looking at these technologies individually, it’s best to look at them in tandem, especially since the point of Evidence.com is to join together footage from varying sources: CCTV, body cameras, drones, even cell phone videos submitted by the public. Useful when reconstructing a traffic accident, but deeply concerning if used at protests. Without steadfast laws preventing “mission creep,” where tech is used for reasons other than intended, Khan worries officers themselves will set the terms. 

“Drones signify what ‘mission creep’ is,” Khan argues. 

A 2017 report from Stop LAPD Spying draws parallels between drone usage and LAPD use of helicopters and SWAT teams. As the report asserts, in both cases police mechanisms are introduced for use under “limited circumstances,” but eventually became routine. SWAT, the report notes, was originally demarcated for specific instances of rioting in 1967, but now is used to serve warrants and search for drugs. Helicopters, when introduced in 1956, were for traffic control, but are now used to track fleeing suspects and surveil cities from above. A May study from Bard’s Center for the Study of the Drone found twice as many agencies, including firefighters and rescue, own drones than manned aircraft. The report estimates 68 percent of these drones were furnished by DJI. 

If drones offer police enhanced abilities, Khan argues, how long until these extraordinary enhancements become normalized? Via Evidence.com, officers have access to advanced searching and editing tools, aided by computer vision and object detection, letting them pinpoint even minuscule details easily. What does it mean when they can do this from a mile in the air? 

“An individual company being responsible is not going to be sufficient to solve the problem of ethical/legal use of law enforcement technology in the face of diverse technology providers with varying ethical standards, sometimes overly permissive local policies, and individual bad actors,” Miles Brundage, another boardmember and an AI policy research fellow at the University of Oxford, told Gizmodo over email. While Axon itself can’t regulate all police drones, Brundage said, they can develop internal best practices, which would influence self-regulation throughout the industry and perhaps stymie the most alarming uses. 

“The board has already discussed the internal controls used to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of body camera data, and related discussions will need to be had for drone-related data,” Brundage said. 

Questions of accountability remain unresolved with body cameras. In Baltimore, officers infamously manipulated body camera footage to abet a safe robbery, filming themselves “discovering” thousands of dollars in cash when really they’d already found and pocketed half of the money before pressing record on their cameras. A 2017 report from policy nonprofit Upturn found that police departments have increasingly made it harder for the public or media to see body cameras footage, marring their original purpose as accountability tools. Forty percent of all body camera footage is never seen by the public. Who get to see drone footage? Who makes sure it’s telling the full story? And who is held accountable when either fails?

“We’re the company that makes the drones,” DJI’s Lisberg explained. “We would certainly advise law enforcement agencies to come up with a strong policy for how they will use drones and the data they collect, but it’s not really our place to suggest ones to them.”

The question remains: who will? The public knows better than to ask police to police themselves. Tech companies claim to care about public safety, but police accountability is a public safety issue as well. And yet, technology companies continue to augment police powers without forthright, robust enforcement goals.

Activists hopeful for quick fixes provided the policy cover for body cameras, but turned on them after misuse. Hopefully, the distractingly lavish vacation videos won’t provide the same cover for drones, before startling abuse arises. Otherwise, our rights could disappear right above our heads.

If You Owe Back Taxes the State Department May Take Your Passport

From [HERE] and [HERE] If you're one of the several hundred thousand U.S. taxpayers who the IRS deems to have a "seriously delinquent" tax debt, be warned: Your U.S. passport may be in jeopardy.

In 2015, President Barack Obama signed into law the GOP sponsored bill Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act. It requires the U.S. State Department to deny renewal of -- and even revoke -- the passports of individuals who the IRS identifies as having delinquent tax debts.  

The tax agency recently provided new details on its enforcement of the FAST Act, stating it's in the process of sending the names of at least 362,000 individuals who owe $51,000 or more in delinquent taxes. According to an IRS spokesperson, it will send the names to the State Department in batches, and it expects to have sent the entire list by year-end.

According to recent reports, the enforcement actions taken to date have already had an impact. The State Department confirmed it has denied passports to an undisclosed number of tax debtors. The IRS confirmed that it has collected over $11.5 million from 220 individuals, with one debtor paying over $1 million to avoid passport denial.

The specifics of how the enforcement of the law works are spelled out in a section of the FAST Act titled Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Tax Delinquencies. The IRS said for now authorities are denying renewal of passports rather than revoking them. But the law does allow the State Department to cancel current passports of tax debtors.

Enforcement of the law has its critics, who say that because the IRS notifies tax debtors at about the same time it sends their name to the State Department, they don't have enough time to resolve the debt and allow the IRS and the State Department to lift the passport restrictions. Critics would also like the notices the IRS sends to individuals to be clearer about situations that are exempt from the law.

Under the law, the IRS defines a delinquent debtor as a person owing a legally enforceable tax liability of more than $51,000 in 2018. This includes the tax, penalties and interest, which can add up fast. A tax lien must be filed, and all administrative remedies for lien relief must have lapsed or been denied. It also includes those who have been issued a tax levy.

When a taxpayer who is on the delinquent list applies for or renews a passport, there's a 90-day process for resolving erroneous IRS certifications or for getting back in good standing for past-due taxes (such as establishing a payment plan with the IRS). But there's no grace period for resolving these issues before the State Department revokes a passport.   

The IRS won't report individuals who fall under the following situations:

  • Those who've entered an installment agreement with the IRS to pay their taxes
  • Those who've settled their tax debt through an offer in compromise or a Justice Department agreement
  • Those who appeal a tax levy through an IRS collection due-process hearing
  • Those who've request innocent spouse relief by filing Form 8857

Also excluded are individuals serving in a combat zone, living in a federal declared disaster area, in a bankruptcy proceeding, have debts in a noncollectable hardship status or who are victims of identity theft.  

A Reminder that Gangster Government Can Do Whatever It Wants: "Blight House" Atty Tells Judge ‘We Can Detain People at Guantanamo Without Ever Charging Them With a Crime for their Entire Lifetime'

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From [HERE] Guantanamo Bay detainees who have been held for as long as 16 years without being charged cannot be imprisoned indefinitely, attorneys argued in federal court Wednesday.

Speaking before U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan in Washington, attorneys representing eight men detained at the military facility said the Trump administration had violated prisoners’ rights because it did not intend to try them or resettle them overseas.

Without court intervention, the lawyers argued, the government would allow the prisoners to die in detention without having a trial or being reunited with their families.

“There have to be some limits,” said Baher Azmy, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights, a group representing some of the detainees.

The case shines a light on the few remaining prisoners at Guantanamo, which President Trump has promised to keep open and potentially use to house new suspects, reversing his predecessor’s failed quest to shutter the facility.

The men’s collective challenge — joined by cases involving three other prisoners now before other judges — is a reminder of the unsettled questions that continue to surround the prison, which for critics symbolizes what they see as excesses that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

At its peak, the military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, held more than 700 prisoners, most of whom were released long ago. After 2009, President Barack Obama, seeking to close the prison, resettled close to 200 more but was unable to overcome congressional opposition to shutting the prison.

Questions about Guantanamo have intensified as military commissions set up to handle 9/11 cases and other terrorism cases fail to reach conclusion. A handful of commission cases have inched along in pretrial proceedings for years, many of them plagued by irregularities.

Two of the men whose challenge was heard Wednesday, Tofiq Nasser Awad al-Bihani and Abdul Latif Nasser, have already been deemed eligible for resettlement overseas by a government panel, but they remain at Guantanamo.

Much of the hearing revolved around the government’s assertion that it could continue to hold the detainees until hostilities against the United States cease, no matter how long that takes.

Justice Department lawyer Ronald Wiltsie said authorities had a responsibility to detain suspects who could pose a future threat, even if it was not clear they would actually take any action against the United States.

Hogan asked Wiltsie whether that principle could be used to justify imprisonment stretching as long as the Hundred Years’ War between European nations in the 14th and 15th centuries. Wiltsie said it could.

“We could hold them for 100 years if the conflict lasted 100 years,” he said. “You cannot tell when hostilities end until they have ended.”

Baher said the government had distorted a 2001 law authorizing U.S. military operations against al-Qaeda and affiliated forces by using it as a basis for indefinite imprisonment.

He said insurgent wars, waged against small, clandestine and evolving bands of militants, could go on forever. But laws governing wars were devised with conflicts between states in mind, he said.

Wiltsie said the U.S. military was still “engaged against the compatriots” of the men held at Guantanamo, making reference to the ongoing U.S. operation against the Taliban and other militant groups in Afghanistan.

Although the Pentagon says that al-Qaeda has been largely defeated in Central and South Asia, officials believe that a small number of extremist holdouts remain in strongholds in Afghanistan and Pakistan and retain the ambition to strike the West.

Also at issue in court was the Trump administration’s position on detainee transfers. While attorneys for the men say the government’s apparent refusal to resume resettlements is an indication they intend to allow the men to die in prison, Wiltsie said the administration had not shut the door to future transfers.

Hogan challenged that assertion, saying that despite Trump’s 2018 executive order asking the Pentagon to develop a new transfer policy, the president had clearly stated his opposition to that idea in previous statements, in what Hogan characterized as his “Twitter position.”

The president’s Twitter statements on different matters have become an issue at times during legal proceedings.

Wiltsie said that despite the administration’s decision to close a State Department office overseeing detainee resettlement, prisoner transfers could resume at a later date.

Hogan, a 1982 Reagan appointee, formerly served as chief district judge and chairman of the executive committee for the U.S. Judicial Conference. In 2008, his colleagues selected him to lead the management of the Guantanamo detainee cases.

The judge expressed sympathy with the detainees’ long imprisonment, but he questioned whether it was his court’s place to overturn the rulings of higher courts. He did not say how he would rule.

Take the Plea or the Government will Crush You: "The Right To a Trial" is an Illusion - 97% of Criminal Cases are Resolved by Plea

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From [HERE] This week the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers released an extraordinary big new report  titled, "The Trial Penalty: The Sixth Amendment Right To Trial on the Verge of Extinction and How To Save It." Here is an overview of the 84-page report from the NACDL's website:

The ‘trial penalty’ refers to the substantial difference between the sentence offered in a plea offer prior to trial versus the sentence a defendant receives after trial. This penalty is now so severe and pervasive that it has virtually eliminated the constitutional right to a trial.  To avoid the penalty, accused persons must surrender many other fundamental rights which are essential to a fair justice system

This report is the product of more than two years of careful research and deliberation. In it, NACDL examines sentencing and other data underlying the fact that, after a 50 year decline, fewer than 3% of federal criminal cases result in a trial. With more than 97% of criminal cases being resolved by plea in a constitutional system predicated upon the Sixth Amendment right to a trial, the fact of imbalance and injustice in the system is self-evident.  The report identifies and exposes the underlying causes of the decline of the federal criminal trial and puts forth meaningful, achievable principles and recommendations to address this crisis. With its release, NACDL intends to launch a sustained effort to rein in the abuse of the trial penalty throughout federal and state criminal justice systems.  The Trial Penalty report, and the principles and recommendations it puts forward, seeks to save the right to a trial from extinction.

Former US District Judge John Gleeson authored a thoughtful Foreword to the report, and here are excerpts that also provide a partial account of what follows:

This report is a major contribution to the discussion of one of the most important issues in criminal justice today: the vanishing trial.  Once the centerpiece of our criminal justice ecosystem, the trial is now spotted so infrequently that if we don’t do something to bring it back, we will need to rethink many other features of our system that contribute to fair and just results only when trials occur in meaningful numbers.

The first task in solving a problem is identifying its causes, and this report nails that step.  Mandatory minimum sentencing provisions have played an important role in reducing our trial rate from more than 20% thirty years ago to 3% today.  Instead of using those blunt instruments for their intended purpose — to impose harsher punishments on a select group of the most culpable defendants — the Department of Justice got in the habit long ago of using them broadly to strong-arm guilty pleas, and to punish those who have the temerity to exercise their right to trial.  The Sentencing Guidelines also play an important role, providing excessively harsh sentencing ranges that frame plea discussions when mandatory sentences do not.  Finally, the report correctly finds that federal sentencing judges are complicit as well.  In too many cases, excessive trial penalties are the result of judges having internalized a cultural norm that when defendants “roll the dice” by “demanding” a trial, they either win big or lose big.  The same judges who will go along with a plea bargain that compromises a severe Guidelines range are too reticent to stray very far from the sentencing range after trial.

The report’s principles and recommendations will stimulate some much-needed discussion.  Today’s excessive trial penalties, it concludes, undermine the integrity of our criminal justice system.  Putting the government to its proof is a constitutional right, enshrined in the Sixth Amendment; no one should be required to gamble with years and often decades of their liberty to exercise it.  The report properly raises the “innocence problem,” that is, the fact that prosecutors have become so empowered to enlarge the delta between the sentencing outcome if the defendant pleads guilty and the outcome if he goes to trial and loses that even innocent defendants now plead guilty.  But there’s an even larger hypocrisy problem.  Our Constitution claims to protect the guilty as well, affording them a presumption of innocence and protecting them from punishment unless the government can prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  A system characterized by extravagant trial penalties produces guilty pleas in cases where the government cannot satisfy that burden, hollowing out those protections and producing effects no less pernicious than innocents pleading guilty. [MORE]

In System Based on the Appearance of Fairness Defense Attorneys ["law croppers", explainers of Govt Nonsense] Decry Disappearance of Jury Trials

Lex-icon: law as image - the appearance of justice (the form) over the substance of justice via truth and law over humanity. from FUNKTIONARY.

 From [HERE] Jury trials in criminal cases around the US have declined at an ever-increasing rate to the point that they occur in fewer than three percent of state and federal criminal cases, says the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) in a new report titled the “The Trial Penalty.” The group says that jury trials have been replaced by guilty pleas in virtually all cases for the “simple reason [that] individuals who choose to exercise their Sixth Amendment right to trial face exponentially higher sentences if they invoke the right to trial and lose.”

The defense lawyers say that defendants faced with this choice “almost uniformly surrender the right to trial rather than insist on proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” meaning that defense lawyers spend most of their time negotiating guilty pleas rather than ensuring that police and prosecutors “respect the boundaries of the law.”

Judges now spend most of their time in criminal cases hearing plea bargains “rather than evaluating the constitutional and legal aspects of the government’s case and police conduct,” NACDL says.

In federal cases, the defense lawyers maintain, “there is ample evidence” that defendants “are being coerced to plead guilty because the penalty for exercising their constitutional rights is simply too high to risk.” The pressure to plead guilty often is “accompanied by a requirement that accused persons waive many valuable rights, including the right to challenge unlawfully procured evidence and the right to appeal issues which have an impact not only in their cases but also for society at large,” NACDL says.

In a foreword to the report, former U.S. District Judge John Gleeson says that mandatory minimum sentencing laws have played an important role in reducing the trial rate in federal criminal cases from more than 20 percent thirty years ago to 3 percent today.

Neither government officials or the public have resisted the rise of plea bargaining, say the defense lawyers, who agree that “plea bargaining presents a seemingly reasonable alternative that promotes efficiency while providing defendants an opportunity for leniency and putting them on an early road to rehabilitation.”

A major problem is that pressures to plead guilty are “so strong [that] even innocent people can be convinced to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit,” says the NACDL report.

The defense lawyers maintain that the predominance of plea bargaining “is an unacceptable development.” The group says that, “The virtual elimination of the option of taking a case to trial has so thoroughly tipped the scales of justice against the accused that the danger of government overreach is ever-present.”

“For the defense attorney there is no more heartwrenching task [than] explaining to a client who very likely may be innocent that they must seriously consider pleading guilty or risk the utter devastation of the remainder of their life with incalculable impacts on family.”

NACDL offers a long list of recommendations, including eliminating mandatory minimum sentences, required plea-bargaining conferences “in every criminal case supervised by a judicial officer who is not presiding over the case unless the defendant, fully informed, waives the opportunity,” and “judicial ‘Second Looks’ in which courts would review lengthy sentences “to ensure that sentences are proportionate over time.”

Provocative White Man Pushed Black Man's Buttons & Got Knocked Out on Chicago Train Platform

Dr. Blynd explains "A slave reacts, a master initiates, demurs, chills or responds from an informed, calm and awakened point of view." Here, is the Black man responding or reacting? 

chicago l KO.jpg

 From [HERE] A viral video making its rounds on social media shows a white man getting promptly knocked out after harassing a black man at a train station in Chicago. [MORE]