We need to see vigorous prosecutions of corporations for any crime they commit! Good for the whistleblower here, who will get nearly $3.59 million.
Excerpts from the Article:
Incyte Corp. has agreed to pay the federal government $12.6 million to resolve allegations the company violated the False Claims Act by paying kickbacks.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, Wilmington-based Incyte allegedly used an independent foundation as a “conduit” to pay the copays of certain federal beneficiaries taking Incyte’s drug Jakafi between November 2011 and December 2014.
Jakafi was approved in 2011 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat myleofibrosis, a rare type of bone marrow cancer. The medicine was later approved to treat polycythemia vera, another type of blood cancer, and acute graft-versus-host disease, a condition that sometimes occurs after transplants.
Incyte (NASDAQ: INCY) was the sole donor to a fund that opened in November 2011 to assist only myleofibrosis patients, according to the government. After the fund opened, the government alleges that Incyte used the fund to pay the copayments of federal beneficiaries taking Jakafi who were ineligible for assistance from the fund because they did not have myleofibrosis. The government further alleged Incyte’s actions caused false claims for Jakafi to be submitted to Medicare and Tricare, the health insurance program for military veterans and their dependents.
There have been no allegations in this case, nor evidence presented, to suggest that individuals with cancer who received financial assistance from the foundation did not need or benefit from treatment with Jakafi. This resolution simply reflects Incyte’s desire to put this matter behind it and to continue to prioritize the health and wellbeing of individuals with serious life-threatening conditions, Incyte’s donations to non-profit foundations have served — and continue to serve — as a safety net for lower-income individuals living with potentially fatal blood cancers, regardless of whether they were prescribed Jakafi or another medication.
Incyte concluded it is the company’s policy to operate in full compliance with the laws, regulations, and applicable codes of conduct — and it remains committed to supporting charitable programs that strive to ensure that no patient is denied access to necessary medications due to financial obstacles.
The Justice Department said under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, a pharmaceutical company is “prohibited from offering or paying, directly or indirectly, any remuneration — which includes money or any other thing of value — to induce federal beneficiaries to purchase a company’s drugs.” The prohibition extends to the payment of patients’ copay obligations.
The civil settlement includes the resolution of claims brought under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by Justin Dillon, a former compliance executive at Incyte. Dillon will receive about $3.59 million of the recovery.
These police disciplinary records should be made public information! As you can see, the unions are a problem. Police and prison guard unions spend millions of dollars lobbying against needed reforms.
Excerpts from the Article:
Lawmakers in more than 20 states have considered bills this year to make the disciplinary records of police officers public or to share them with other agencies, a push that comes amid high-profile deaths at the hands of law enforcement. About 20 states still largely prohibit their release, however.
Supporters of greater transparency say it could help improve police accountability, build trust with the community and prevent officers with disciplinary problems who leave one department from being hired by another.
Opponents say the release of such records could harm the reputations of officers with only minor infractions or even put them in danger. They also argue that disciplinary actions are part of personnel records, which are exempt from state open records laws.
But amid growing nationwide protests against alleged excessive force by police officers, at least 16 states have contemplated measures to release such records, or summaries of them, publicly. Another eight have discussed making the records accessible to other law enforcement agencies.
In Utah, Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill in March providing legal immunity to law enforcement agencies that share background information about former employees with other agencies looking to hire. State Sen. Jani Iwamoto, a Democrat in the GOP-dominated Legislature, introduced the legislation in response to the case of a University of Utah officer who resigned while being investigated for allegedly sharing explicit photographs of a victim in an alleged extortion case who was later killed. The officer was later hired by police in Logan, Utah, who did not know about the probe.
“We want people to feel that they can report a bad cop,” said Iwamoto, who also successfully sponsored another bill to ensure that police disciplinary investigations are completed even if an officer resigns while one is in progress. Without legislation in place, lawyers advised police departments not to share disciplinary records lest they be sued, Iwamoto said.
In North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature, lawmakers want to create a confidential database from which law enforcement agencies in the state can track all disciplinary actions to prevent officers from hiding past problems when looking for a new job.
“We enable agencies to better screen individuals … so that we can weed out who the bad apples are,” said Republican state Sen. Danny Britt.
Under an expansive police reform bill Britt is sponsoring, authorities also would track all use of force by officers resulting in serious injury or death. And the legislation would create an “early warning system” to collect data on citizens’ complaints and any transgressions with the aim of correcting an officer’s behavior before it leads to a deadly outcome.
Maryland has gone further, approving the release of records related to formal misconduct complaints. The Democrat-controlled Legislature overrode a veto by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who objected to the public release of complaints that haven’t been substantiated. Supporters contend the public has a right to see how police departments investigate complaints against officers.
The proposals come amid a national reckoning over the killings of Black people at the hands of police. Efforts to get access to police disciplinary records have increased along with public awareness of the issue, which has grown since the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, said Rachel Moran, an associate professor and founder of the Criminal and Juvenile Defense Clinic at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.
In Maryland, the move is part of a sweeping police reform package that was prompted by the 2018 death of Anton Black, a 19-year-old African American who died in a rural Maryland town after officers pinned him to the ground for more than five minutes as they handcuffed him and shackled his legs.
One of the officers, Thomas Webster, had nearly 30 use-of-force complaints lodged against him while previously working in neighboring Delaware. Webster also had been charged with second-degree assault in that state for allegedly kicking a Black man in the head, but was acquitted in 2015.
Anton Black’s sister, LaToya Holley, said she hopes the new law translates into quicker answers for the families of anyone who dies at the hands of police.
“They need to work on trust,” she said of law enforcement. “There isn’t that much trust in the community.”
In 2018, California lawmakers voted to allow public access to records of officer shootings and other major uses of force. New York lawmakers last year repealed a law that had blocked public disclosure of disciplinary records for police officers, firefighters and correctional officers. Hawaii took similar action, allowing the public to learn the details of more than 80 cases of unwarranted assault and more than 100 cases of officers filing false reports or covering up infractions.
In New Jersey last year, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, without waiting for legislation, ordered local and state police to release the names and summaries of disciplinary records of officers who had been fired, demoted or suspended for more than five days. Grewal said the information was needed to promote community trust and police accountability amid protests against the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
For their part, members of New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled legislature considered but have failed to pass a bill this year to make police records public, though an early warning system of the kind being considered by North Carolina is already in place.
Meanwhile, nothing has come of Grewal’s order yet because of a legal challenge by law enforcement unions. They argue that personnel records are exempt under state open records laws, and that officers and their families could be put at risk if they are made public. They also object to releasing information about past confidential disciplinary agreements for problems such as drinking and domestic violence.
Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, said many officers who have dealt with problems like that have gone on to have good careers. Colligan said he would support the release of records only for major infractions, such as excessive force and civil rights violations, from now on.
He also would like to see the state’s early warning system be given a chance to provide officers with help or weed out those not meant to wear a badge.
“People have to stop assuming every officer is a problem officer,” he said.
The Whole Story:
Group advocates for those arrested in wake of law enforcement killing of Andrew Brown Jr.; protests continue for day 11
Tonight (5/3/21) police are arresting protesters earlier than ever in the evening.
These protests must continue until we learn the TRUTH of why cops shot Andrew Brown. DEMAND TRANSPARENCY!
All of the hiding of their body cam film is BULLSHIT!
Excerpts from the Article:
A social justice group held a press conference on Saturday in Elizabeth City to advocate for protesters arrested in the wake of the law enforcement killing of Andrew Brown Jr. and to make several demands.
Rev. Curtis Gatewood, founder of “Stop Killing Us Solutions Campaign,” was among the speakers. He was one of several protesters arrested and wanted to clear up misconceptions.
He said he sat down on the streets of Elizabeth City at 8 p.m. earlier this week because he says it was his way to protest an “unjust law,” meaning the curfew. The curfew originally started Monday at 8 p.m. and was later extended from midnight to 6 a.m.
He said the curfew put in place was unnecessary because all protests have been peaceful, and that it infringes on the First Amendment.
Gatewood, who was also joined by former Elizabeth City State student and local business owner Addonis Jones and others, also called for the elimination of no-knock warrants and a national registry of law enforcement officers who’ve been fired for previous offenses at other precincts.
“I’m doing this for all those children out there who look like me or will look like me one day. I did that for them because if don’t nobody do it, our same kids will keep dying,” Jones said.
Jones also is calling for psychological evaluations for police officers.
The group is pushing for the release of bodycam footage in the case and the suspension of all seven deputies involved in the raid in which Brown was killed. 3 who fired their weapons are still on administrative leave but four who did not have been reinstated.
The bodycam footage in the case was delayed from public release this week for at least 30 days. The district attorney in the case, Andrew Womble, claims video shows Brown’s car making contact with deputies before they fired. The family believes that wasn’t the case and have called Brown’s death an execution.
The group also demanded that law enforcement officers staying at Elizabeth City State University housing leave, calling the decision to house the officers an escalation. ECSU said Friday that 13 officers that were being housed there were moving off-campus.
The press conference came a day the North Carolina ACLU and other civil rights groups sent a letter to Elizabeth City officials, saying a new requirement that permits need to be filed to hold protests violates the First Amendment. The group also demanded for Elizabeth City to lift its midnight curfew.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation is leading the investigation, and the FBI has also opened its own probe.
Protests started in Elizabeth City around 5:30 p.m Saturday. Protesters began outside the Pasquotank County Public Safety Office.
At least 100 people were involved in the march.
Protester Denita Latta drove all the way down to Elizabeth City from Philadelphia to participate in the protests. She’s an Elizabeth City State University alum and brought a sign reading “Genocide by status quo.” She said she made the sign 10 years ago after Trayvon Martin was killed. It’s the same old song. It’s the same old song. We’re still doing this. And I just can’t stop. I have three Black sons, so every day that I wake up, it could be one of them,” she said.
Latta — who now lives in Delaware — echoed what Jones and others said during the press conference Saturday afternoon. She wants to see federal changes in policing requirements.
Protesters, escorted by Elizabeth City police, chanted “release the tapes” as they marched to the Waterfront area Saturday night.
By 9:30 p.m., there was a police presence by the bridge connecting Pasquotank and Camden counties. Elizabeth City police had blocked Water Street and Colonial Avenue after some protesters tried to block the bridge.
A different group of protesters then returned by 10:20 p.m. and were standing off against police at the start of the bridge. NC state troopers were waiting across the bridge.
Some protesters has dispersed by 11 p.m.
BELOW: Video from day 10 of protests in Elizabeth City.
This is nothing short of outrageous! WHERE are the officials responsible for prosecuting these criminals stealing from workers?! I shall write a Letter to the Editor about this when time permits.
Excerpts from the Article:
Already battered by long shifts and high infection rates, essential workers struggling through the pandemic face another hazard of hard times: employers who steal their wages.
When a recession hits, U.S. companies are more likely to stiff their lowest-wage workers.
These businesses often pay less than the minimum wage, make employees work off the clock, or refuse to pay overtime rates. In the most egregious cases, bosses don’t pay their employees at all.
Companies that hire child care workers, gas station clerks, restaurant servers and security guards are among the businesses most likely to get caught cheating their employees, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of minimum wage and overtime violations from the U.S. Department of Labor.
In 2019 alone, the agency cited about 8,500 employers — including major corporations — for taking about $287 million from workers.
Companies have little incentive to follow the law. The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, which investigates federal wage-theft complaints, rarely penalizes repeat offenders, according to a review of data from the division. Public Integrity obtained the records through a Freedom of Information Act request covering October 2005 to September 2020. The agency fined only about 1 in 4 repeat offenders during that period. And it ordered those companies to pay workers cash damages — penalty money in addition to back wages — in just 14% of those cases.
On top of that, the division often lets businesses avoid repaying their employees all the money they’re owed. In all, the agency has let more than 16,000 employers get away with not paying $20.3 million in back wages since 2005, according to Public Integrity’s analysis.
“Some companies are doing a cost-benefit analysis and realize it’s cheaper to violate the law, even if you get caught,” said Jenn Round, a labor standards enforcement fellow at the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization at Rutgers University.
The federal data provides a revealing — though incomplete — look at a practice that pushes America’s lowest-paid workers further into poverty.
The data doesn’t include violations of state wage-theft laws or cases where employees sued.
And it misses all the workers who don’t file complaints, either because they’re afraid to or are unaware of their rights.
But some economists say wage theft is so pervasive that it’s costing workers at least $15 billion a year — far more than the amount stolen in robberies.
Companies are more prone to cheating employees of color and immigrant workers, according to Daniel Galvin, a political science professor and policy researcher at Northwestern University.
His research, based on data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, shows that immigrants and Latino workers were twice as likely to earn less than the minimum wage from 2009 to 2019 compared with white Americans. Black workers were nearly 50% more likely to get ripped off in comparison.
Galvin reports in his forthcoming book, “Alt-Labor and the New Politics of Workers’ Rights,” that the lowest-paid workers lost roughly $1.67 per hour — about 21% of their income — to wage theft from 2009 to 2019.
A Labor Department official said the agency orders companies to pay damages when appropriate, determined on a case-by-case basis.
Fines are usually assessed when a company repeatedly, or willfully, breaks the law.
The department tries to resolve cases administratively to avoid taking employers to court.
“The department exercises its prosecutorial discretion in determining whether to litigate specific cases, based upon careful consideration of our priorities, resources, and mission,” Jessica Looman, principal deputy administrator for the agency’s Wage and Hour Division, wrote in a statement.
Yuri Callejas, a 40-year-old single mother, cleaned hotel rooms at a Fairfield Inn & Suites franchise in Pelham, Alabama.
Callejas complained to her boss that he was paying her only $9 an hour when she was hired at $10 an hour, according to a lawsuit filed in January 2020 in federal court. Though she said she was working more than 40 hours a week, she wasn’t getting paid overtime, either, according to the complaint. Her boss refused to change her pay rate, the complaint said, so she quit. Her accounting of how much she was owed: $1,272.
With help from an attorney at Adelante Alabama Worker Center, Callejas sued the owner of the hotel, AUM Pelham LLC.
The company denied that Callejas was hired at $10 an hour or that she worked overtime, but it agreed to a settlement. Company owner Rakesh Patel did not respond to requests for comment. Callejas walked away with $2,500 in back wages and damages. But that didn’t wipe away the memories of her struggle.
“Every time I paid my bills,” she recalled, “I never had enough money.”
Ruth Palacios and Arturo Xelo, a married couple from Mexico, disinfected COVID-19 patient rooms at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. They worked seven days a week for months, Palacios said, but weren’t paid overtime.
At the start of the pandemic, they earned the local minimum wage of $15 an hour, she said, but after a few months, their boss lowered their pay to $12.25, she said. Palacios, Xelo and two of their former co-workers filed a federal lawsuit against the contractor that hired them, BMS Cat, in January.
The company did not respond to requests for comment. In court records, it denied that it paid the cleaners less than the minimum wage or that it owed them overtime pay. The hospital did not respond to requests for comment, either.
“The little guys have to speak up because people — the bosses — are taking advantage of their workers,” Palacios said in a video call from her home in Queens.
Let us pray that we can reach our youth B4 they join a gang.
Excerpts from the Article:
There was no way that Dover Police Chief Thomas Johnson could have predicted all the challenges that would get in his department’s way when he began his tenure Feb. 14, 2020.
The hurdles began in early March of last year, when COVID-19 made its arrival in Delaware. It was joined by civil unrest in June following the death of George Floyd at the knee of a police officer in Minneapolis. Then, a rare tornado twisted through the city Aug. 4, leaving devastating damage in its wake.
Additionally, there was the record number of homicides — nine — that took place around Delaware’s capital city in 2020. Those nine deaths broke a previous record of seven, set in 2015.
“As you are aware, I began my tenure on Feb. 14 in a year that produced so many challenges for the city and our nation,” Chief Johnson said to Dover City Council, while presenting the police department’s annual report last week.
“During that time, I can report that the Dover Police Department took very good care of its business — and began a transformative journey — in conditions not previously encountered in modern public safety service.
“It is my judgment that the hard work of all the Dover police employees has put us on a path to an improved condition of public safety and to serve as a leading example of what a 21st-century policing agency looks like.”
Chief Johnson said the department’s data from 2020 appears to be skewed because, during the pandemic, most people were relegated to their homes, which led to a mostly downward trend in crime.
“Calls for service and all the crime events (were down),” he said. “Unfortunately, the only one that did spike were the violent crimes.”
Chief Johnson said that with only minor exceptions, the majority of the murders in Dover last year could be traced to a 2019 surge in gang activity, illicit drug trade and the guns that are often wielded by gang members.
“Last year, during the (Dover PD) annual report, which got delayed a little bit until the summertime, I used the adjective ‘alarming’ when it came to the crime issues of 2019 and that they were persistent into 2020,” the chief said. “Unfortunately, we did end up setting a record for homicides in the city of Dover.
“We believe it is time to continue to discover that gang activity continuing from 2019 into 2020 was the root cause for the majority of issues that we were engaging.”
In response to the gang activity, with support from local and state officials, a multi-agency task force — dubbed “Operation Rise-N-Shyne” — was deployed last year to identify and arrest the key individuals controlling the gangs. By year’s end, more than 50 suspects were in custody and 28 firearms had been confiscated.
During Chief Johnson’s presentation to council last week, Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. asked him the typical age at which individuals become involved with gangs. The councilman’s eyes grew wide with shock when the police chief told him that many of the members of Dover’s gangs join around the fourth grade, while still in elementary school.
“Unfortunately, the age range is actually younger than any of us would probably be happy to hear,” Chief Johnson said. “The early stages of this is fourth grade, fifth grade. The way that this gang culture has been pushing down into the elementary-school level right before they head off to middle school … I didn’t believe it the first time I saw the photographs and I saw the information that backed it up, and that’s where we’re looking.”
Dover PD is preparing to unveil a plan to address the conditions that lead to gang involvement, recognizing the need to follow up the enforcement effort with prevention programs.
Chief Johnson said that as the department inches closer to its authorized strength of 106 officers, there will be a sharp increase in community policing and crime-prevention efforts, using a combination of historically successful activities and innovative ideas borne out of community engagement.
“Our goals include an increase in outreach to our youth, efforts to provide resources to at-risk individuals of all ages and a continuation of the appropriate enforcement activities that work in concert to effectively reduce crime,” the chief said. “Dover is truly strong, and its power is found in the sum of its parts.
“There are several other initiatives in development to support a safer community. There is no doubt that those efforts will require community collaboration to be successful. We are committed to harnessing the power of our residents and our institutions. The goal going forward will always be zero homicides in a city your family can safely live, work and thrive.”
Chelle Paul, chair of the Criminal Justice Committee for the NAACP Delaware State Conference of Branches, said she met with Chief Johnson and other officers Monday and was pleased with what she heard.
“I met with Chief Johnson and members of his team,” Ms. Paul said. “We talked about the gang violence and specific incidents that have occurred in the city. We talked about (a possible police) mobile substation and its value to the community but, most of all, the gang violence and effect it has on our youth.
“When I left the meeting, I was not only positive, but I actually had a true vision of the positive change that this city can achieve if we all continue to stay the course and work together. That meeting allowed me to reach deep to know that we have got to all get in sync on the same page and forget the messenger but receive the message.”
She added, “The problem of gangs is definitely one of a different (dynamic), and we have to get in front of it. It starts with the youth. So let’s think of some creative ways to get the kids involved and signed up to utilize the programs. I must say when I left (the meeting), I was definitely smiling inside.”
Looking back to 2020, Chief Johnson was pleased that the Dover Police Department was able to work its way through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to staffing and safety concerns, the department was forced to limit most proactive policing measures to prevent predictable exposures and maintain staffing levels for major casework and emergency service for the city. “Essentially, the Dover police team took the challenges delivered by the pandemic response and worked collectively to convert them into opportunities to evolve and adapt in order to continue to provide crucial services to the community,” Chief Johnson said.
Chief Johnson said that since many big events were canceled due to the pandemic, such as the Firefly Music Festival and the NASCAR races at Dover International Speedway — run as a doubleheader without fans last August — the crime data obviously would not match up well against 2019 statistics.
Then, there were the cancellations of the Dover Days Festival, the Fourth of July celebration and several other Dover traditional events that had an impact, as well.
For example, there were 52 robberies in Dover in 2019 and just 27 last year. However, that could be because most people stayed home during the pandemic.
Assaults were also down from 1,498 in 2019 to 1,258 last year. Burglaries also decreased, from 90 to 65.
“The Dover Police Department would also like to thank the community for their support during this critical time. A special thanks to those who donated protective gear and sanitization supplies when they were scarce in the initial months of the pandemic and little was known about the virus,” the chief added.
“At the time of this report, there is a better understanding of the illness, and vaccination efforts are moving into high gear. Lastly, as an organization dedicated to public service and life safety, we pause to pay respects to those who fell victim to COVID-19 and the families they left behind.”
If you commit a heinous crime in Delaware, the team assembled by our AG, Kathy Jennings, will get you! And she does not waste precious resources prosecuting people for having some pot. She is a “smart cookie” and doing a great job. 🙂
Excerpts from the Article:
The mother of a 3-year-old whose remains were found in a Smyrna, Delaware softball field has been charged with murder in the case, authorities announced Tuesday.
Attorney General Kathy Jennings said Kristie Haas has been charged with two counts of first-degree child murder by abuse or neglect in the abuse and eventual death of her daughter, Emma Cole.
Brandon Haas and Kristie Haas were previously indicted on charges including First Degree Child Abuse and Endangering the Welfare of a Child. Kristie Haas was also previously charged with Assault 2nd Degree, Abusing a Corpse and Reckless Burning.
On September 13, 2019, officers of the Smyrna Police Department responded to a report of a child’s remains being discovered at the Smyrna-Clayton Little Lass softball fields. Authorities said Emma was the victim of child abuse before her death. Both Haases are alleged to have deprived Emma of sufficient food and needed medical attention and subjected Emma and her siblings to excessive forced exercise and inappropriate physical discipline, authorities said.
“Today we are one giant step closer to justice for Emma,” Jennings said Tuesday during a news conference.
Jennings then said she wanted to speak as a mother and grandmother, and urged everyone to “hold their children and grandchildren extra tight.”
“Emma never had that chance, given the abuse they endured for a very long period of time. This young child we have to remember in our hearts.”
My dear friend, Jeanie Wilson, had this published in the Delaware State News of 5/4/21.
Letter to the Editor: Tragic death brings warning that fentanyl kills
Every 7 minutes, a life is taken in the United States from illicit poisons! We need to be aware, and we need to do whatever we can to stop this silent epidemic. Delaware has a 24-hour helpline, (833) 9-HOPEDE.”
May 15 marks one year since my 23-year-old son did not wake up. Our family was devastated to lose the beloved baby of our group and even more so when we found there was an illicit substance, fentanyl, in his bloodstream.
After reading his text messages, we discovered that he had been using what he thought was Percocet purchased from “a friend.” But sadly, there was no Percocet in his toxicology screen. Instead, he was sold fentanyl pressed into a pill that looked exactly like a pharmaceutical-grade Percocet.
Fentanyl is cheap and 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin or morphine. It can be laced in everything — pills that kids are buying thinking they are Percocet or Xanax and now even Adderall. I am writing this letter to warn parents, friends and all citizens that fentanyl kills!
According to the organization Drug Induced Homicide, every 7 minutes, a life is taken in the United States from illicit poisons! We need to be aware, and we need to do whatever we can to stop this silent epidemic.
Jeannie Wilson, Dover
Letter to the Editor – Arrest Him Already! – 5/4/21
The Attorneys General of Georgia and of New York have said they are investigating the actions of Donald J Trump. Arrest him already!
Too many people continue to be fooled by the onslaught of misinformation and lies emanating from Faux News, and being spewed by foolish tRump loyalists.
Too many hard-working Americans continue to be fooled by tRump himself into giving him money.
The guy is nothing more than a blowhard, racist, fool, con man!
These AGs should lay out the facts, bring charges ASAP, get this man convicted and in prison where he belongs. Maybe that will end the ludicrous talk of “Trump in 2024”! God Forbid we make the same mistake twice.
Arrest him already!
Ken Abraham, former Deputy Attorney General, founder of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, Dover, DE 302-423-4067
I get lots of letters published, and ghost write for others. The keys to getting your Letter published are:
1. Keep it to 250 words or fewer.
2. Do not make it about “poor little old me”. Describe the problem as one which not only affects the individual, but is a senseless or ineffective measure, policy, or law which also harms communities and society. For example, with reentry, the obstacles make it unnecessarily difficult for the individual, but also harm society by making it hard to become productive, spending money and paying taxes in the community, and they cause increased recidivism = increased crime.
3. Speak from your heart.
4. Google any facts you are not sure about.
5. Do not name-call.
Do what works: Write that Letter! 🙂
Letter to Editor – sign name, town, state, and your phone number (they often call to verify that you sent it), and “Member of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE” if you like – shows you are part of a large group.
Send the email to yourself, and put on the “bcc” bar the email addresses for Letters to the Editor for the top ten newspapers in your state and several national ones – The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, U S A Today (google the Letter to Editor email addresses). Any questions, CALL me at 302-423-4067! 🙂
Need a Letter on some criminal justice issue and not a great letter writer? NO EXCUSE! Email me a rough draft and call me and I’ll polish it up! firstname.lastname@example.org .
We must protect our most precious right – freedom of speech!
Excerpts from the Article:
The high school cheerleader relegated to the JV squad for another year responded with a fleeting fit of frustration: a photo of her upraised middle finger and another word that begins with F.
“F— school, f— softball, f— cheer, f— everything,” 14-year-old Brandi Levy typed into Snapchat one spring Saturday. Like all “snaps” posted to a Snapchat “story,” this one sent to about 250 “friends” was to disappear within 24 hours, before everyone returned to Pennsylvania’s Mahanoy Area High School on Monday.
Instead, an adolescent outburst and the adult reaction to it have arrived at the Supreme Court, where the case could determine how the First Amendment’s protection of free speech applies to the off-campus activities of the nation’s 50 million public school students.
“This is the most momentous case in more than five decades involving student speech,” said Justin Driver, a Yale law professor and author of “The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind.”
“Much of the speech from students is off-campus and increasingly online,” Driver said. “When I talk to school administrators, they consistently tell me that off-campus speech bedevils them, and the lower courts desperately need some guidance in this area.”
That shouldn’t be a surprise, as cellphones have become an extension of almost every teenager’s hand and social media a preferred mode of communication. And for the past year, many students have not gone near a school campus, with their “speech” happening in their homes during Zoom classes.
The First Amendment does not “force schools to ignore student speech that upends the campus environment simply because that speech originated off campus,” says a brief filed by Mahanoy Area School District, which upheld the school’s decision to kick Levy off the cheer squad.
“Wherever student speech originates, schools should be able to treat students alike when their speech is directed at the school and imposes the same disruptive harms on the school environment.”
The school board’s brief, as well as Driver’s book title, refers to the foundational Supreme Court case regarding student speech, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. The 1969 decision famously held that students and teachers do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”
But it also held that schools have broader authority over students than the state generally does when restricting speech and that authorities can discipline students for on-campus speech that causes or is likely to cause “material and substantial” disruption of school functions. (The court ruled 7 to 2 for Mary Beth Tinker because, it said, the black armband she wore to protest the Vietnam War was not disruptive.)
In the half-century since, the Supreme Court’s decisions have been few and lean toward school administrators. The justices have upheld school disciplinary action regarding lewd speech by students, a student newspaper that operated at the direction of school officials and a nonsensical sign with a seemingly pro-marijuana message — “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” — held by a student at a school activity.
Levy’s case is different. It concerns speech far beyond the schoolhouse gate, made online and on a weekend, unconnected to a school event.
“This may seem like a very narrow case about a minor temper tantrum on Snapchat, but it is about speech anywhere and everywhere, by students of all ages,” said Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida.
Because it is somewhat rare for the justices to take a student speech case, “they are writing broadly the standards that will apply for two or three generations,” LoMonte said. “And they are writing the standards for all forms of speech across all media.”
“I was just feeling really frustrated and upset at everything that day,” said Levy, now 18 and a college student studying accounting.
Besides the snap in which she and her friend posed with middle fingers extended, she sent another: “Love how me and [another student, whom Levy identified by name] get told we need a year of jv before we make varsity but that doesn’t matter to anyone else?” She signed off with an upside-down smiley face.
It was sent to about 250 people who received Levy’s snaps, which dissolve within 24 hours. “I didn’t think it would have had an effect on anyone, and it didn’t really,” Levy said.
But one person took a screenshot and showed it to another, who happened to be the daughter of one of the cheerleading coaches. Some cheerleaders complained about Levy’s message, and the coaches decided to suspend her from the squad for a year.
The coaches said Levy’s snap violated the team rules she had agreed to, including showing respect, avoiding “foul language and inappropriate gestures,” and a strict policy against “any negative information regarding cheerleading, cheerleaders, or coaches placed on the Internet.”
Brandi’s parents, Larry and Betty Lou, appealed to the athletic director, the principal, the superintendent and the school board, to no avail.
Then, with the help of the ACLU, they filed a federal lawsuit.
A district judge agreed that the suspension from the squad violated the First Amendment, noting that Brandi’s speech was not disruptive. He ordered her reinstated to the JV squad in her sophomore year, and she made varsity her junior and senior years.
“Schools need to deal with cyberbullying,” said Witold J. Walczak, head of the Pennsylvania ACLU. “What separates us [the ACLU and the school board] is how much power the school is given to address those problems. We feel like the school district’s approach is too big a power grab.”
Levy has drawn support from a wide and ideologically diverse coalition of more than 100 organizations, 250 individuals and nine Republican state attorneys general.
The issue comes before a Supreme Court that seems to pride itself on protecting unpopular speech. As LoMonte wrote in Slate, “The Roberts court has reliably said that . . . the First Amendment requires us to tolerate all manner of unpleasantness. That even includes anti-gay hate speech (Snyder v. Phelps), lying about military heroism (United States v. Alvarez), or selling videos of graphically violent dog fights (United States v. Stevens).”
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has called himself “probably the most aggressive defender of the First Amendment on the court.”
Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who has complained about the speech rights of conservatives on campuses not being respected, reluctantly joined the majority in Morse regarding speech about illegal drugs. But he said he viewed that regulation “as standing at the far reaches of what the First Amendment permits. I join the opinion of the court with the understanding that the opinion does not endorse any further extension.”
Five of the justices were not on the court for Morse, the court’s last major student speech case.
But Justice Sonia Sotomayor, as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, joined an opinion that sided with school administrators who barred a student from running for student council after she wrote in a blog post that officials were “douchebags” for interfering with a battle of the bands concert.
LoMonte said it is the relatively low stakes of student speech cases — the silly sign, a band concert, suspension from the cheerleading squad — that brings the possibility that judges and the public will trivialize them.
But he analogizes it to a police officer handing out $5 tickets to people wearing T-shirts with political statements the government doesn’t like.
“No federal judge in America would say, ‘Suck it up and pay the ticket,’ ” LoMonte said. “Even a very small amount of government punishment that is meant to deter you from speaking is enough to violate the First Amendment, and judges understand that very well every place other than schools.”
This is bullshit! Americans should be able to donate to causes – especially controversial ones – without having to disclose their identity.
Excerpts from the Article:
More than a decade after the Supreme Court upended campaign finance rules in a landmark case, the justices Monday hear arguments in a challenge to disclosure requirements that could make it easier for donors to spend anonymously.
At issue is a California mandate that nonprofits disclose their top contributors to state regulators. Two conservative groups, including one tied to Republican megadonor Charles Koch, say the state’s requirement violates the Constitution by subjecting the donors to threats of violence from political opponents and, thereby, chilling the exercise of their First Amendment rights.
The groups point to a landmark 1958 civil rights case in which the Supreme Court struck down a request by Alabama that the NAACP reveal its membership, a decision that required governments to weigh their need for information against the potential that its disclosure could make people nervous to join an advocacy group.
Though the case turns on a technical question about how to apply that standard, groups working to reduce the influence of money in politics fear a broad ruling by the high court in favor of privacy could weaken disclosure requirements in elections, making it easier for big donors to influence the outcome of political campaigns anonymously.
“Even though they’re saying the case had nothing to do with elections and is not about public transparency, if there’s a bad ruling here it could be leveraged to expand these exemptions from transparency in election spending,” said Beth Rotman, national director of money in politics and ethics at Common Cause.
The Americans for Prosperity Foundation, founded by Koch, and the conservative Thomas More Law Center say Americans should be able to donate to causes – especially controversial ones – without having to disclose their identity. They question California’s need for the donor lists. And they argue the case has nothing to do with campaign disclosure requirements, which the Supreme Court has recognizedserve a legitimate government function.
California says it uses the donor lists for fraud investigations. The groups say the state should ask for the lists once an investigation is underway, not beforehand.
“There’s no need for them to be asking for tens of thousands of confidential donor names and amounts in advance,” said John Bursch, vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the law center. “They testified that they never once had a problem getting it after the fact.”
While the appeal has drawn support from many conservative organizations, it has also been joined by organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. All of them say they fear the potential for retaliation against donors if their names are disclosed.
Thousands of demonstrators march to the Alabama Capitol completing the final leg of the 25 anniversary of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery civil rights march in Montgomery on Saturday, March 10, 1990. The marchers began their trek at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
“When the government is infringing a right, they need to try to do so through the narrowest means possible,” Bursch said. “And the reason for that…is because if they do it more narrowly it violates less rights.”
If the court applies that heightened standard groups advocating for stricter campaign finance laws fear the next lawsuit will challenge disclosure requirements for elections as well.
“If you’re going to expand those exemptions so broadly, then you’re going to really take away a lot of the transparency that we have in political disclosure laws,” Rotman said.
A decision in the case is expected in June.