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News In Brief

Arizona: Debate about press freedom was reignited after a 12-year-old girl on a bicycle was caught in a confrontation with an Arizona cop for doing her job. The young journalist was “chasing down” a story in Patagonia, Arizona, when town Marshal Joseph Patterson “threatened to throw her in juvenile jail ... then falsely claimed it would be illegal for her to film him and publish the video on the Internet. Instead, she posted their exchange on YouTube and in the Orange Street News — which in turn prompted town officials to discipline Patterson,” washingtonpost.com reports. In fact, Patterson told the girl it was illegal for her to put his photo on the Internet. However, “Federal courts, including the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that includes Arizona in its jurisdiction, have established that citizens have a First Amendment right to take video of the police in public,” nogalesinternational.com reports. Patterson told the Associated Press that his office has fielded a barrage of calls, including threats, since the incident.

California: Twenty-year-old Bay Area rapper Willie Bo, aka Willie McCoy, was shot at least two dozen times by police in the drive-through of a fast-food restaurant after he was discovered “slumped behind the wheel” of his Mercedes at about 10:30 p.m. February 9, 2019, nbcnews.com reports. “It seems like an execution,” David Harrison, McCoy’s cousin and manager, told NBC News. “It looks like my baby cousin was executed by a firing squad.” The incident unfolded when McCoy was apparently asleep in the drive-through lane with his foot on the brake. Employees eyed a handgun on the young man’s lap and discussed how they could retrieve it without startling him. Police tried to retrieve the firearm but found the car door locked. More officers were called. McCoy shuffled in his seat. Startled awake, police say McCoy failed to heed orders to “keep his hands visible,” instead moving his hands to his gun. Officers reportedly opened 25 rounds into him over 4 seconds, striking his body, including his face, throat and ear. Oakland lawyer Melissa Nold, who told reporters she viewed the body, said, “Overkill is an understatement.” Something else could have been done, she said. “Suppose he was having a medical emergency and needed help. Their reaction wasn’t, can we get this person safely out of the car,” Nold said.

California: Jeff Adachi, a longtime San Francisco public defender known as “a fierce champion for justice” while helping the disenfranchised and for exposing police and prosecutorial misconduct, died February 22, 2019, at age 59. “Adachi was a talented defense attorney who up until the end tried difficult cases in the courtroom, and is remembered as an inspiring leader who shaped his office into one of the best of its kind in the country,” sfexaminer.com reports. He worked hard for criminal justice reform and won acquittal on murder charges for a five-time deported undocumented immigrant who was charged in a 2015 shooting death. Adachi’s sudden death shocked the community. His office said he suffered shortness of breath after having dinner with a friend, before being taken to the California Pacific Medical Center. An investigation into his death is underway.

California: Microsoft employees are demanding their employer cancel a contract with the Army that would “help people kill.” The product in question is HaloLens, an augmented-reality headset that appears to turn war into a game. According to The Washington Post: “Writing to chief executive Satya Nadella, more than 50 workers said the devices would be “turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game.’” They also urged Microsoft, which won the $480 million contract in November, to “cease developing any and all weapons technologies” for the government. “As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers,” the letter concluded. “To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop in its activities to empower the U.S. Army’s ability to cause harm and violence.”

Florida: An 11-year-old boy was charged with creating a disturbance and suspended for three days after he wouldn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, usatoday.com reports. The sixth-grader was asked by a substitute teacher to stand and he refused, telling her the flag is racist and the National Anthem offensive to black people. “The teacher asked the student why not go to another place to live if it was ‘so bad here.’ She said he answered, ‘They brought me here.’” He was arrested by a school resource officer for failure to follow commands and leave the classroom, for calling school leaders racist and for being disruptive. A school district spokeswoman said pupils aren’t required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. “The student’s attorney, Roderick Ford with the Cochran Law Firm in Tampa, questioned the motives of all involved, pointing out the black students are subjected to punishment far more often than white or Hispanic students. ‘This country has a history of disciplining African-American children at a higher rate,’” theledger.com reports. In Florida, state Department of Education data shows higher suspensions of black students.

Florida: As prosecutors face shrinking budgets, defendants are being asked to pay higher fees in plea agreements, hurting poor people the most, according to an investigative story in the February 2, 2019, Palm Beach Post. One woman, Sarah McKee, who faced drug and prostitution charges, was told in court in August 2019 that “she could take a plea deal and sentence for the 57 days she had spent in jail since her June arrest on drug and prostitution charges. But that was only if she paid double the $100 standard court fees for prostitution. Otherwise, no deal.” In this case, Palm Beach Circuit Judge John Kastrenakes’ gave a firm no, referring “to such a deal as ‘pay to play’ and promised to sentence McKee to time served without the extra cost. ‘There’s something wrong with linking an otherwise reasonable plea offer to money,’ Kastrenakes told prosecutors, adding: ‘Think about it. If the people of this community knew that you were giving a defendant less time than they deserve so that you can get an extra 100 bucks, there’d be an uproar.’” State Attorney Dave Aronberg doesn’t see it that way, telling the Post: “Our fees have always been the bare minimum allowed, but the legislature’s lack of funding is forcing us to raise them.” Other counties in the state also have raised fees but in Palm Beach County they have met resistance by judges and public defenders. Public Defender Carey Haughwout told the Post that public defenders also are having to do more with less.

Hawaii: A newly released report from the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women reveals that cops often make sex trafficking worse. “The report found that instead of preventing child and adult sex trafficking, many police officers are participating in it,” thefreethoughtproject.com reports. At least that’s according to victim testimonials in the report, “Sex Trafficking in Hawaii: The Stories of Survivors.” In fact, almost “almost half of all the victims interviewed reported that police officers participated in their abuse and victimization.” The average age was just 14 years old. “Khara Jabola-Carolus, with the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, explained that the abuse was extensive and on all levels of the spectrum. ‘This ranged from cops asking for sexual favors to more coercive situations like I’ll let you go if you do X, Y, or Z for me.’  Bring customers after hours in exchange for cigarettes or gas money,” she told the news site. Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, who is seeking more information from the victims, said the department “does not condone the behavior described in the study under any circumstances.”

Hawaii: An FBI investigation of a senior employee in the office of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro led to calls in February 2019 for the top prosecutor to step aside, according to prosecutorialaccountability.com. Impeachment hearings were set. This comes on the heels of the Justice Department indicting Katherine Kealoha “on more than 50 charges ranging from drug dealing to public corruption stemming from her time as a deputy prosecuting attorney in Kaneshiro’s office,” the website reports. “Among the most egregious allegations, Kealoha is said to have worked with her husband – the former Police Chief of Honolulu – to falsify charges against a relative with whom she was having a financial dispute, and to thwart the prosecution of her brother – a local doctor – for illegally prescribing opioids for profit. The indictments have come in waves over the past two years, and Kealoha is now facing three separate trials.”

Idaho: State police initially called it the largest pot bust in Idaho history, but it looks like they were wrong. Colorado truck driver Denis V. Palamarchuk kept telling an Idaho State Police trooper, who stopped his semitrailer in Ada County in early February 2019, that he was hauling hemp, not pot — in fact, 6,701 pounds of industrial hemp for the company Big Sky Scientific, reason.com reports. However, “the officer’s nasal investigation, a field drug test that showed a ‘presumptive positive for THC,’ and a positive identification from a drug-sniffing dog all overpowered Palamarchuk’s insistence.” The “shipment was then taken for more definitive testing, but not until after Palamarchuk was arrested,” charged with felony marijuana trafficking, and released on $100,000 bond. In addition, state police have filed for an in rem civil forfeiture (or civil asset forfeiture) to gain control of the truck used to haul the hemp. It also plans “to sell the vehicle and keep the money,” idahostatejournal.com reports. Idaho, it turns out, is one of the “few states with a blanket ban on hemp.” While both hemp and marijuana contain the psychoactive ingredient THC, which helps make pot intoxicating, industrial hemp contains no more than .3 percent THC, idahostatejournal.com reports, and is known for its commercial uses. The 2018 Farm Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump, “makes the growth, sale and transportation of industrial hemp legal at the federal level.” In April, two other truck drivers hauling hemp through Idaho to a farm were arrested. Their trial is scheduled for May 2019. 

Massachusetts: Carlos Vieira, a longtime Lawrence police officer, was charged in February 2019 with raping a boy who investigators said met the officer through a social media app in summer 2018. Prosecutors said the officer met the boy, who was 13, at Mount Vernon Park in Lawrence where a sex act allegedly occurred in a dark SUV, nbcboston.com reports. Vieira was arraigned on two counts each of aggravated rape of a child and two counts of indecent assault and battery of a child under 14, prosecutors said. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bond.

Michigan: A 23-year-old Mt. Morris Township police officer faces five felony charges after he allegedly phoned in a false police report January 25, 2018. According to WNEM (wnem.com), police report that Vincent Motley II “called 911 from his Saginaw Township home and reported his truck stolen.” After the vehicle was discovered crashed into a tree, police arrested Motley and ordered a blood test. Officials said his blood-alcohol level exceeded the 0.08 legal limit. He is “charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, operating a vehicle with an open alcohol container, carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence, failure to report an accident, and false report of a felony.”

New York: The fallout from a New York Police Department clerical blunder has snowballed, nypost.com reports in January 2019. The case of a “violent sex offender” was “mistakenly labeled the job closed, and the supervisor did not catch the error,” according to NYPD officials. This allowed the Staten Island man to be on the streets for almost a month after allegedly beating up a home health aide en route on foot to a prayer meeting. Now he’s an individual of interest in another case. “Linden Beaton, 31, is suspected of killing 69-year-old Johynita Jordan, who has been missing since Jan. 18. Her body was discovered Thursday in an abandoned house in Stapleton,” the newspaper reports. “Investigators finally put out a photo of Beaton on Jan. 22 and he was taken into custody three days later.” The victims lived near each other.

Nebraska: A pre-employment lie detector test with the State Patrol that revealed deception led authorities to investigate Nicholas Bridgmon, a Seward County sheriff’s deputy, according to Forensicmag.com in February 2019. The 30-year-old deputy was charged with forcible sexual assault, which dates to Dec. 1, 2006, and placed on administrative leave. He’s also been linked to five other sexual assaults, forensicmag.com reports. His lawyer didn’t return a message seeking comment from The Associated Press. Bridgman joined the Seward department in 2015. He was freed from jail on $50,000 bond. If convicted, he reportedly faces up to 50 years in prison.

Tennessee: Instances in which Memphis cops turned off their body-cameras during interactions with the public prompted lawmakers to consider making the violation a felony. “Officers have been caught hiding things recently,” wreg.com reports in February 2019. “Most notably, in the Martavious Banks case where the department says three officers turned off their body cameras before shooting a man.” The actions were deliberate, police said, most telling being that the officers communicated on a radio frequency that dispatchers could not hear. Under Representative G.A. Hardaway’s proposal, “officers would face felony charges for intentionally disabling a body camera, thus obstructing justice.” The Memphis Police Association disagrees with the proposal and says cops will “quit” if this becomes law.

Texas: San Antonio police officer Dezi Rios was back at work, although on limited duty in February 2019, after a May 2018 road rage incident that led to a gunfight. According to KENS 5 (kens5.com): Rios was off duty and driving on Northwest-side Interstate 10 in May 2018 when his vehicle “cut off” Demontae Walker’s Dodge Charger as Walker was about to exit. Walker estimated that Rios flew by at 120 mph. At the time, Rios was on his way home from a Cadet banquet at a restaurant. Walker was taking his cousin to apply for a job. Both men pulled into the Allstars Gentlemen’s Club parking lot. Walker hurled expletives, Rios replied in kind. “That is when Rios claims Walker pulled out a gun and started shooting. Rios responded by grabbing his own weapon and firing it ‘until his gun’s slide locked to the rear,’” kens5.com reports, striking Walker and grazing the head of Walker’s cousin. Walker says he fired in self-defense after Rios reached for his waistband, kens5.com report. The scene, captured on cellphone and surveillance video, even left televisions and glass broken at the restaurant next door, kens5.com reports. A grand jury declined to charge Walker, who was left paralyzed from the waist down in the shooting. “A letter detailing Rios’ 15-day suspension reveals he was drinking prior to the shooting and ‘unfit to report for duty,’” kens5.com reports. KSAU ABC-12 reports that in August 2017 Rios was involved in an unrelated road rage incident. In that instance, Nathan Pezina said Rios attempted to merge into his lane while swerving and nearly hitting his car bumper. Rios claimed Pezina pulled a gun and pointed it at him, prompting him to call 911. 

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