Is it time for The Office of Public Prosecutions?

The nation … at least those of us who aren’t drinking Trump’s toxic concoction, is aghast at the breech of protocol in the Department of Justice regarding the Roger Stone case. Our friend Jeff has done some research into the way some other nations have gone about ensuring that the Department of Justice is not influenced by the government, but rather remains independent in order to maintain the rule of law. I hope you’ll take a minute to read Jeff’s piece, for this is something that will affect us all for years, perhaps decades to come. Thanks Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

In the age of Trumpism, it’s time to look how other countries ensure an independent Justice Department

During the Trump era, it’s rare that I agree with anything Alan Dershowitz says. The 81-year-old ‘TV’ lawyer has gone off the deep end it seems, especially when you consider his ridiculous performance during the recent impeachment trial.

But once in a while, he gets it right. A few nights ago on CNN, he was debating his former pupil, Jeffrey Toobin, concerning the recent intervention of Bill Barr into Roger Stone’s sentencing recommendation from federal prosecutors. Dershowitz, of course, first sided with Trump on the issue, saying that he did have the ‘legal’ right to intervene in that particular case. There was nothing in the law that says he couldn’t do it.

But then he also explained that it wasn’t right for him to do so. Because of the long understood norms and…

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The Week’s Best Cartoons ⚡ 2/15

The past two weeks have certainly provided plenty of material for the political cartoonists, haven’t they? Our friend TokyoSand always seems to find the best of the bunch, and this week is no exception. These cartoons pretty well sum up the current situation … thank you, TokyoSand for this post, and for your kind permission to share!

Political⚡Charge

By Marc Murphy, Louisville Courier-Journal

Here are some of the best editorial cartoonists in the country (and a few from abroad) with their visual opinions about this week’s news:

Trump Seeks Revenge

By Morten Morland

By Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

By Bill Bramhall, New York Daily News

By Banx

Barr Interferes with Justice

By Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

By Pat Chappatte

By Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle

By Ann Telnaes, Washington Post

Image

By Mike Peters, Mother Goose and Grimm

By Jeff Darcy, Cleveland.com

By Matt Davies, Newsday

By Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

And Other News

By Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

ByJim Morin, Miami Herald

By Christopher Weyant

By Matt Davies, Newsday

By Matt Davies, Newsday

By Kevin Necessary

By Rod EmmersonNZ Herald

Want to get these political cartoon roundups every…

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A Banana Republic?

Today on Twitter, Trump posted:

“Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Trump. ‘When you strike at the King, Emerson famously said, “you must kill him.’ Mr. Trump’s foes struck at him but did not take him down. A triumphant Mr.Trump emerges from the biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.” Peter Baker @nytimes The Greatest Witch Hunt In American History!”

I and a few thousand others reminded him that he is NOT a king, but some 60,000 people actually liked his post.  I wonder how much more we will tolerate …

More than a few times, I have made the claim that Trump is turning the U.S. into a ‘banana republic’, and it seems I’m not alone in this idea.  On Thursday, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote a column that I think sums the situation up quite well.


America, the Banana Republic

Feb. 13, 2020 at 5:55 p.m. EST

I covered South America for The Post from 1988 to 1992, a time when nations such as Argentina, Brazil and Peru were struggling to reestablish democratic norms after the long, dark night of military dictatorship. One of the biggest challenges was implanting something we take for granted in this country: public confidence that justice, for the most part, is blind and engages in an honest search for truth.

I never thought I’d be living in a country like that again. But thanks to President Trump and the inexcusable damage he is doing to our justice system, South America’s past has become America’s present.

There has been considerable hyperventilation, some perhaps by me, about the grave harm Trump is doing to our democratic institutions. I am not hyperventilating now. Public faith in justice is a delicate, precious thing. Once squandered, it is incredibly hard to regain.

That’s the kind of damage Trump is threatening with his outrageous and un-American attacks on the Justice Department and the federal judiciary for finding his cronies — including longtime political adviser Roger Stone, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort — guilty of crimes and deserving of punishment. I know what the impact of this behavior is, because I’ve seen how it plays out before.

I lived in Argentina, where the president for much of my time there, Carlos Menem, was a populist norm-breaker who nepotistically involved his family in running the government and was widely viewed as corrupt. In 1991, Menem’s sister-in-law and appointments secretary, Amira Yoma, was indicted on money-laundering charges that involved suitcases full of cash allegedly being smuggled in and out of the country. Yoma’s ex-husband was head of the customs service at Ezeiza International Airport outside Buenos Aires, where he allegedly facilitated the cash-smuggling.

Menem was accused of secretly meeting with the prosecuting judge in charge of the Yoma case. The president initially denied having had such a meeting but ultimately admitted it, claiming it was about some unrelated matter. The judge’s secretary alleged that the judge had gone to the presidential residence, where she showed Menem secret prosecution documents about the Yoma case.

That judge was suddenly taken off the case, which was assigned to a different judge, and Yoma was eventually cleared of all charges. It is safe to say that few Argentines were surprised.

There simply was very little confidence in the ability of the justice system to discern truth from falsehood or to punish the powerful and well-connected. There was an understanding, moreover, that prosecutors and the court system could and sometimes would be used as political tools.

Years after leaving office, Menem was convicted on unrelated charges involving weapons smuggling and embezzlement. He maintained his innocence, claiming he was being persecuted by his political enemies.

In those fragile democracies I covered years ago, seeing justice be warped by politics had a corrosive effect on the larger society. A lack of confidence that court proceedings could — or even were intended to — arrive at truth encouraged the propagation and spread of conspiracy theories. Argentina still struggles to escape the widespread belief that unseen forces control events from deep in the shadows.

This is not the sort of path I ever thought the United States could take. Our justice system obviously has flaws, starting with the way it disproportionately punishes people of color. But it has not been naive, at least in my lifetime, to believe that federal prosecutors and judges tried their very best not to let politics influence their decisions — and that they generally succeeded because they took their responsibilities seriously.

When four assistant U.S. attorneys asked to be taken off the Stone case, they were sounding an alarm. We must all pay attention.

Their recommendation that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison for his crimes was tough, but federal prosecutors tend to be tough. Stone was duly convicted in a court of law, and U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson will decide his punishment. But when higher-ups in Attorney General William P. Barr’s Justice Department overrule the prosecutors who handled the case on Stone’s recommended sentence; when Trump tries to delegitimize those prosecutors as “Angry Democrats” because they worked for former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III; and when Trump goes so far as to try to intimidate Jackson, a highly respected veteran federal judge — when such things happen, I have to wonder whether I’m back in Carlos Menem’s Argentina.

An OUTRAGE!

Roger Stone … he’s a nasty piece of work.  He’s part of the reason we are in the mess we’re in today, with a president who thinks he’s king, with the wealthy calling the shots while the rest of us are lied to and our rights diminished on a daily basis.  But let’s go back a little further …For many years in the 1980s and ‘90s, Stone was a lobbyist for Donald Trump on behalf of his casino businesses.  Stone has been involved in so many scandals that I’ve lost count.  Stone is also associated with Proud Boys, a far-right, fascist, white supremacist group.  He has been affiliated with Alex Jones’ Infowars, Breitbart, and the conspiracy theory that claimed President Obama was born outside the U.S.  Stone has linked his fortunes with so many nasties that it would take me the whole day to tell you about them all.  But his most recent crimes landed him, finally, in very hot water.stone-angryRoger Stone was largely responsible, along with Russian operators and Julian Assange, for hacking into Hillary Clinton’s emails during the 2016 election.  On January 25, 2019 Stone was arrested on seven criminal charges in relation to Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election:  one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering.

On February 18, 2019, Stone posted on Instagram a photo of the federal judge overseeing his case, Amy Berman Jackson, with what resembled rifle scope crosshairs next to her head.Amy-Berman-JacksonAfter a week-long trial in November 2019, the jury convicted Stone on all counts.  His sentencing hearing was originally scheduled for February 6th, but his attorneys requested a delay until sometime after March 9th.  Stone’s attorneys have argued for no jail time, but only probation.  Yesterday, prosecutors recommended a sentence of between 7 and 9 years.  Immediately Donald Trump tweeted inanely …

“This is a horrible and very unfair situation. The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them. Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”

And now I come to the part of this story that should horrify you.

Stone-orange-suitThe Department of Justice plans to reduce its sentencing recommendation.  No word yet on whether they will recommend only probation, or perhaps a sentence of only a few months.  But think about this one, folks.  The man is a criminal, has been a criminal all his adult life, has been proven to have broken countless laws including lying to Congress and threatening a witness, and he is a large part of the reason that Donald Trump is sitting in the Oval Office today, though not through legitimate means.  And yet, because Donald Trump threw a hissy fit, the Department of Justice, under Trump’s lackey William Barr, is going to actually override justice to please the “president”.  In other words … we have no Department of Justice and Trump is now calling the shots.

Think about it … it can work in both ways.  Say I’m arrested outside the White House for protesting something that Trump has done … if Trump told William Barr he wanted me put away for life, no amount of arguing by my attorneys would change the verdict.  Is this what we’ve allowed to happen in this nation? Paul Manafort is serving a 7 ½ year sentence for his crimes … why should Stone get any less, for his crimes were every bit as serious as Manafort’s?

broken-justiceJustice.  It’s a funny word, for it’s open to interpretation.  There are grey areas, for sure.  But, when the ‘man’ sitting in the Oval Office can literally override the courts, can decide what he wants and the Department of “Justice” will accede to his whims and wishes, then … there is no justice.  If the court gives Roger Stone no more than a slap on the wrist for his very serious crimes, then this nation is in deep trouble … the last bastion of hope for salvation from a cruel dictator will have crumbled.

Cruel And Inhumane …

aoc.jpg“This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying. This is not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis. And for the shrieking Republicans who don’t know the difference: concentration camps are not the same as death camps. Concentration camps are considered by experts as “the mass detention of civilians without trial.” And that’s exactly what this administration is doing.”

Those are the words of freshman Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on June 18th.  I fully agree with her words.  She has been taken to task by republicans, and even by Yad Vashem, of the Holocaust research center.  I have read the arguments, pro and con, and I still agree with Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.  The conditions under which we are holding people, particularly children, against their will and for no legitimate reason, is unconscionable, is a crime against humanity, and defies international law.  It is not much different from what the concentration camps in Germany were in the early days of Hitler’s regime, before the death camps.

What crime have these children committed?  None.  What crime have their parents, then, committed?  In most cases none, unless it is a crime to flee from violence and seek a safe haven for one’s family.

What, exactly, are ‘crimes against humanity’?  The United Nations Human Rights Council defines crimes against humanity as …

“… murder, extermination, torture, enslavement, persecution on political, racial, religious or ethnic grounds, institutionalized discrimination, arbitrary deportation or forcible transfer of population, arbitrary imprisonment, rape, enforced prostitution and other inhuman acts committed in a systematic manner or on a large scale and instigated or directed by a Government or by any organization or group.”

Warren Binford is a law professor at Willamette University in Oregon, and one of the few lawyers that visited a Customs and Border Patrol detention center in Clint, Texas, where 250 infants, children and teenagers are being held.  According to her report, these children are denied adequate food, water or sanitation.  Listen to what she said about the conditions in this facility …

There is a 1997 federal court ruling that came as a result of abuses dating to the 1980s, that strictly limits the government’s ability to keep children in immigration detention.  This is known as the Flores Settlement, and it requires the federal government to do two things: to place children with a close relative or family friend “without unnecessary delay,” rather than keeping them in custody; and to keep immigrant children who are in custody in the “least restrictive conditions” possible.

Trump has fought to overturn or circumvent the Flores Settlement, but it is one thing he cannot legally accomplish via executive order, so the republicans in Congress have proposed legislation that would effectively overrule the decree.  Last week, the government was in federal court to argue that it shouldn’t be required to give detained migrant children toothbrushes, soap, towels, showers or even half a night’s sleep inside Border Patrol detention facilities.  Yes, you read that right.

Arguing the government’s case was Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian who faced a three-judge panel.  Ms. Fabian was, as she should have been, shredded by the judges, for there can be no legitimate case for depriving children of the most basic necessities.  She hedged and deflected, lied and stuttered, and at the end of the day she looked like the fool that she is.  Take a look …

Her only real argument was that the Flores Settlement does not specifically list the items that must be provided in border facilities, and that it created a problem of “enumerating certain hygiene items”.  Circuit Judge William Fletcher responded …

“It wasn’t perfume soap. It was soap. It wasn’t high-class mild soap. It was soap. And that sounds like it [falls in the category] of safe and sanitary. Are you disagreeing with that?”

I wonder how Ms. Fabian would like to sleep in her clothes, on the floor, with only a piece of tin foil for a blanket, then wake the next morning unable to either shower or brush her teeth?  Or Donald Trump?  Perhaps they should have to spend a night or two in the conditions they have imposed on these children.

Six migrant children have died in the “protective” custody of U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).  How many more … how many more must die before someone in the Department of Justice or the administration has the guts to stand up and say, “ENOUGH!!!”?  The federal government of the United States already has blood on its hands.  Donald Trump has blood on his hands and is as guilty of murder as if he had personally killed those six children.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is essentially correct, these are no better than concentration camps.  I hear my representative, republican Warren Davidson, referring to how “proud” we should be of our country.  His only concern these days is something or other to do with “cryptocurrency”.  I hear Trump say how he’s made this such a “great country”.  I disagree.  Right now, I am not proud of this nation … not one little bit.

A City Of Two Tales …

Saturday Surprise is on hiatus this week for mysterious, undisclosed reasons.  Mis disculpas.

Washington D.C. … so much goes on there these days that it sucks the air out of the rest of the nation.  Every day there are more and more stories of lies and corruption.  Today I bring you two tales from that city … one encouraging, one discouraging.


There are conscionable republicans?  Who knew?

In Thursday’s Snarky Snippets post, I mentioned an organization, Republicans for the Rule of Law (RRL) who are planning a 30-second ad calling for Trump’s impeachment (the ‘I’-word) that will be aired on none other than Fox and Friends, Trump’s favorite show, next week.  Curiosity piqued, for I had never heard of this group, I went in search of more information about RRL.

On the “About Us” section of the group’s website, they state …

“Republicans for the Rule of Law is a group of life-long Republicans dedicated to defending the institutions of our republic and upholding the rule of law. We are fighting to make sure that the laws apply equally to everyone, from the average citizen to the president of the United States. We believe in fidelity to the Constitution, transparency, and the independence of prosecutors from politics.”

On Thursday, RRL announced that it would hand-deliver a copy of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to every lawmaker in the republican party.  In a letter to lawmakers, the group said …

“As Republicans and conservatives, we consider an uncompromising commitment to the rule of law in the best interests of both the Republican Party and the United States. With this pre-highlighted copy of the Mueller report in hand, all Republicans in Congress will have an easy defense against charges of not having read it.”

Along with the letter and highlighted report, Republicans for the Rule of Law released a video with three GOP-appointed federal prosecutors claiming Trump would have been indicted if he were not president.  These three men, all republicans, all having worked under republican administrations, make a clear and concise case that Donald Trump is, in fact, guilty of obstruction of justice.  Take a look …

Chris Traux, legal advisor and spokesman for Republicans for the Rule of Law, said …

“The rule of law has always been a nonnegotiable principle of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. These veterans of the Reagan and Bush Administrations are reminding us that the law applies the same to everyone — even the president. Republicans and all Americans need to listen.”

The 30-second ad to be aired on Fox and Friends is said to be a clip from the above video.

I find it encouraging that there are republicans who are willing to put country first, for it seems that with the lone exception of Representative Justin Amash, none of the republicans in Congress are willing to do so.  My hope is that this group and their actions can stir the consciences of at least a few of the republican members of Congress so that we might proceed with the impeachment of Donald Trump, for it is increasingly obvious that he is taking our nation down a path of destruction.


But … it’s a court order, for Pete’s sake!

In early May, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ordered that the Justice Department make public various materials related to the case against Michael Flynn, Trump’s first National Security advisor. The order included transcripts of any audio recordings of Flynn, such as his conversations with Russian officials, specifically Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, as well as unredacted version of portions of the Mueller report related to Flynn.

These requests by Judge Sullivan were not subpoenas from Congress but were a direct order by a court of law.  And guess what, folks?  The United States Department of Justice under Attorney General William Barr refused to comply with that court order.  Prosecutors Brandon L. Van Grack and Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Curtis of Washington provided little explanation as to why they were not turning over the transcripts but indicated that the judge had asked for material that was not relevant to Flynn’s eventual sentencing.

The Justice Department did provide one of the items the Judge ordered … a full transcript of a voice mail that John Dowd, a private attorney for Trump, left for Flynn lawyer Robert Kelner in November 2017.  But guess what?  It was fully quoted in Mueller’s report anyway.

So, let’s recap here.  The House of Representatives is conducting an investigation as is not only their right, but their constitutional duty, and as such, they are issuing requests and subpoenas for information, but the Trump, Barr, Mnuchin and others are flat out refusing to provide such information.  Michael Flynn, who served only 24 days as Trump’s national security advisor because it was proven he had lied to the FBI about the nature and content of his communications with Kislyak, has been tried, found guilty, and is awaiting sentencing.  The judge in the case asks for relevant information, but Trump’s hand-picked, corrupt Attorney General refuses the order.

Law.  Either we have one or we do not.  What do you think would happen if you were subpoenaed to court and didn’t show up?  What do you think would happen if a policeman pulled in behind you, lights flashing, and you kept going?  That’s right, folks … the law applies to us.  Obviously, at this point, it does not apply to the officials in the federal government.  Can there be any doubt that this is the most corrupt government in the 230+ year history of this nation?


Now go forth and have a lovely weekend!

Remember The Children …

Imagine, if you will, your child being torn out of your arms at, say, age 5, and then not seeing him again until he is 7 or 8 years old.  You did nothing wrong, he did nothing wrong, but this is how we welcome you to the “great” United States of America.  We take your child, then we lock you up in one place, throw your kid in a cage and forget where we put him.  Finally, after a couple of years, we get it all sorted out and … here’s your kid back … hope you enjoyed your visit.immigrant child-2Last June, Judge Dana M. Sabraw ordered the reunification of children and parents who had been separated under the Trump administration policy.  Ten months ago.  Since then, some 2,800 children have been reunited with their parents, however a group of separated families including possibly as many as 2,000 children was unaccounted for because the government lacked an effective tracking system.  Even after Judge Sabraw’s order that the government cease separating children from their families, another 245 children were taken from their parents.  But the government let the ball drop when it came to record-keeping, so there is speculation that the number may, in fact, be much higher than 245.immigrant-children-2.jpgOn Friday, the Department of Justice filed court documents stating that it will take at least a year to review about 47,000 cases of unaccompanied children taken into government custody between July 1, 2017 and June 25, 2018.  Why?  Because record-keeping was shoddy, or perhaps non-existent.  Because nobody cared enough about these children to take time to even find out who they were.  Because the people currently responsible for running this nation care only about people whose skin is white.

The government said it would apply a statistical analysis to about 47,000 children who were referred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and subsequently discharged.  After that, the government said it would manually review the case records of the children who appeared to have the highest probability of being part of the separated families.  Officials estimated that the process would take at least one year and potentially two. In explaining the reason for such an arduous process, the government said United States Customs and Border Protection did not collect specific data on migrant family separations before April 2018.immigrant-childrenWhat???  Did they not think it would ever be necessary to figure out who these kids were and where they belonged, such as with their parents?  Did they just hope the children would disappear, and that the parents would forget about them?

In the court filing, Jonathan White, a commander with the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, wrote that identifying this group of children presented new challenges because they were already discharged from the Office of Refugee Resettlement, meaning the government “lacks access” to them.  One has to wonder if the government even knows quite where these children are.

The government also stated that they would have to rely on computerized statistical analyses, for manually reviewing each of nearly 50,000 cases would “overwhelm” the resources of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.  It didn’t overwhelm their resources to take the kids, did it?  These are human lives we’re talking about here, not Wheat Thins!!!  Somebody is seriously lacking functional brain cells in our government, not to mention a heart!immigrant-children-3Last year, for a few weeks, the story of the children separated from their parents and kept in questionable conditions was in the news every day.  It was front and center in our minds and we … well, most of us anyway … were appalled and horrified.  Then, Judge Sabraw issued his ruling, the government partly complied, and the story receded into the background to be replaced by other abominations of the Trump regime.  But the story is not over … not by a long shot.  Meanwhile, these children are undoubtedly suffering both physical and emotional damage that may last a lifetime.  Is this, then, what Trump meant when he said he was going to “make America great”?  Sorry, Donnie, but in my book this makes America pretty darn lousy.

When Judge Sabraw issued his order that the children be returned, he said, “The hallmark of a civilized society is measured by how it treats its people and those within its borders.”  It would appear that we are not, contrary to popular belief, a “civilized society”.

I Never Thought I’d Say This, But The US Attorney General Sessions Is Making The Right Decision

For once in his life, at least, Jeff Sessions has made the right decision. The breaking news set my phone off this afternoon as I was attending house chores, and my jaw literally dropped to the floor. I was prepared to research and investigate, but I find that our friend Gronda has done an excellent job with this story, and since I have absolutely promised Miss Goose that I would play a game with her tonight, I am sharing, con permiso, Gronda’s excellent and timely post. Thank You, Gronda!!! And now, please wish me luck in my battle against the little pro in a game of Mario Party!

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of jeff sessions AG JEFF SESSIONS

The republican President Donald Trump’s US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has formally declined  a formal request by some US congressional republicans on the US Senate Judiciary Committee, to appoint a special counsel to work with the Inspector General in reviewing how the Justice Department and FBI handled specific matters related to the Trump-Russia investigation up to the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller which would possibly end up including an analysis of past FBI’s handling of the Clinton email/ foundation probe and FISA warrants.

This time the Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to take this step.

Image result for photos of jeff sessionsHere is the rest of the story..

On March 29, 2018, Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post penned the following report, “Sessions, for now, rebuffs GOP calls for second special counsel to probe FBI actions in Clinton and Russia probes”

Excerpts:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday (3/29/18) rebuffed —…

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Tears of Rage – Revisited

At 2:00 p.m. today, the United States Justice Department made the following announcement:

“After an exhaustive, almost yearlong investigation, all of the prosecutors involved have come to the conclusion there is insufficient evidence to charge either office with a federal crime. “

Last year, under Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the Justice Department opened an investigation into the murder of Alton Sterling by police.  Apparently, under the new, racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, that investigation was closed and no charges will be filed.  There will be no justice for Alton Sterling’s murder, just as was the case in so many others in recent years.  I am reposting this post from 07 July 2016, when Mr. Sterling was so viciously, needlessly murdered.  R.I.P., Mr. Alton B. Sterling.

I long for the day when I no longer have to write these stories.  I no longer expect to see that day in my lifetime, but I surely can wish for it.  This story, no worse than the others, has somehow left me drained, depleted, tired, and incredibly sad.  Perhaps it is worse than the others, merely by merit of quantity, of the number of these I have read, only some of which I have written about.  Perhaps it is because we keep hearing promises that steps are being taken to ensure it does not happen again, but then it happens again.  Or perhaps because of the haters out there who have already begun to blame the victim.

sterling1.pngThe Facts of the Matter:

  • Tuesday morning, at approximately 12:35 a.m., Alton B. Sterling, age 37, was selling CD’s in his usual place outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
  • Police received an anonymous 911 call saying a black man in a red shirt selling music CDs outside the Triple S Food Mart had threatened him with a gun.
  • Police arrived on the scene and arrested Mr. Sterling, tasing him and throwing him first on the hood of a car and then on the ground where the two officers, Blane Salamoni, 28, and Howie Lake II, 29, pinned him to the ground.
  • While Sterling was pinned, one of the officers pulled his gun and shot Mr. Sterling numerous times.
  • Mr. Sterling was African-American. Mr. Sterling is dead.

The “Positives”:

  • The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation on Wednesday, thus the investigation will not, as recent, similar killings of African-Americans by police have been, be left to state or local investigators. The FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office will also participate in the investigation.
  • Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has a history of being fair. He ran for governor in 2015 based on “a healthy dose of common sense and compassion for ordinary people”.  Since then he has signed legislation to protect the rights of the LGBT community and rescinded an earlier order by Bobby Jindal that allowed for discriminatory practices by businesses and religious organizations.  Governor Edwards has promised to ensure transparency and assistance to the Justice Department in this investigation, and I somehow believe him.
  • There are at least six videos of the incident: 2 from the body cams of the officers, although apparently the quality is poor, as the cams were “dangling”; 1 from the dash-cam on the patrol car; 1 from the surveillance camera at the convenience store; and 2 from witnesses.  The two by witnesses are available online, and I will include links at the end of this post.

The Responses:

  • Protests, peaceful thus far, have sprung up drawing hundreds of people Wednesday night to the storefront where it happened.
  • Police department spokesperson L’Jean McKneely, when asked if the officers had been questioned, replied that they had not, because “we give officers normally a day or so to go home and think about it.” (This, though in almost every criminal incident, witnesses are interviewed as soon as possible, as credibility of eyewitness accounts lessens with time.  And what the Sam Heck is there to think about?  Do they need time to corroborate their stories?)
  • Officer Salamoni’s father-in-law, James Durdin, released an angry statement, saying “It burns my you-know-what when it’s – usually the black people – that try to make an agenda out of this. What I’d like to see is them with no police at all, so they can know what it’s like not to have them… The majority of (cops) would never be abusive. Does anyone give a you-know-what about that? We’ll have social chaos (without cops). I’m totally against these people.”

Given that the investigation is being conducted at the federal level, I think there is a better than even chance that the truth will come to light.  Does that mean I believe justice will necessarily be served?  Not necessarily.  There was no justice for Trayvon Martin.  There has been no justice, as yet, for Freddie Gray.  There was no justice for Tamir Rice. There was no justice for Michael Brown. And either way, at the end of the day, Alton B. Sterling will still be dead and his son will still be crying for his dad.

So why do I keep writing these posts?  I do so because people far too easily become complacent, become accepting that this is the status quo, that this is the norm, that this is just the way it is.  If we all just sigh, then keep our mouths shut and do not speak out, then we are as guilty as anybody else.  I may not make a difference, or at least not much of one, but I will not sit down and shut up!  I will speak against this injustice until I take my last breath.  It is who I am, and I make no apologies for that.

I have tried to write this post presenting facts and leaving out rumours and unverifiable data.  I have tried to write this post calmly and somewhat dispassionately.  It is difficult, if not impossible to do so, as I am literally choking on tears or rage, frustration and incredible sadness as I write.  Sometimes I find shreds of humanity and, being mostly an optimist, I think, “AHA … there is hope for mankind after all.”  Tonight, as I read the stories, as I do the research, and as I write this post, I cannot find that glimmer of hope.  R.I.P. Mr. Alton B. Sterling.

Video Links (warning – these are not easy to watch)

Video #1

Video #2