Legal

Legal

No Criminal Charges in Prince’s Death

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Federal prosecutors have announced that no criminal charges will be filed in relation to Prince’s accidental drug overdose in April 2016. The Minnesota doctor who described opioid painkillers for Prince a week before his death, Michael T. Schulenberg, has agreed to a $30,000 settlement to civil charges of writing illegal prescriptions. Prince died after accidentally overdosing on fentanyl in his Paisley Park home on April 21st, 2016.

Carver County Attorney Mark Metz said to reporters that Prince believed he was taking Vicodin to manage his pain, but unintentionally took fake pills that contained a lethal dose of fentanyl. “Prince had no idea he was taking a counterfeit pill that could kill him,” Metz said. Law enforcement could not determine the source of the counterfeit Vicodin that killed Prince despite an “intensive investigation”, according to Metz.

Schulenberg denied any liability in Prince’s death, but violated the Controlled Substances Act when he illegally filed a prescription for Prince using a fake name, federal prosecutors said in official settlement documents obtained by reporters. “Dr. Schulenberg prescribed Schedule 2 controlled substances in the name of an individual knowing that the controlled substances were intended to be used by another individual,” U.S. Attorney Greg Brooker said. “As licensed professionals, doctors are held to a high level of accountability in their prescribing practices, especially when it comes to highly addictive painkillers.”

Schulenberg settled the civil charges for $30,000 and agreeing to submit to monitoring by the DEA.

“As Minnesota and the nation struggle in the throes of an opioid crisis, the Drug Enforcement Administration will always strive to ensure that those responsible will be held accountable, no matter what their position may be,” DEA Minneapolis-St. Paul Division Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kenneth Solek said. Dr. Schulenberg’s settlement “is neither an admission of facts nor liability” according to court records. Prosecutors also affirmed that Dr. Schulenberg is not a target of federal criminal investigation.

“Dr. Schulenberg decided to settle with the United States regarding alleged civil claims in order to avoid the expense, delay, and unknown outcome of litigation. He made no admission of facts nor liability and denies any such liability. The United States Attorneys’ Office for the District of Minnesota has confirmed that he is not a target in any criminal inquiry and there have been no allegations made by the government that Dr. Schulenberg had any role in Prince’s death,” Schulenberg’s attorney, Amy Conners, said in a statement to ABC News. “After he learned of Prince’s addiction, he immediately worked to refer Prince to a treatment facility and to transfer care to a chemical dependency specialist.”

New York City sues ‘Big Pharma’ for fueling opioid epidemic

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Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, along with his wife Chirlane McCray, who directs the city’s mental health and drug addiction programs, filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of prescription opiates. These opiates, including OxyContin, fentanyl, and Percocet, have resulted in tens of thousands of drug abuse deaths across the United States. The lawsuit, claiming $500 million in damages, aimed to “hold manufacturers and distributors to account” for the crisis.

More than 60 lawsuits have been filed in federal court by cities and counties across the United States, and are being handled by one federal judge in Ohio: Dan Polster. Nominated to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio by President Bill Clinton in 1997, he was confirmed by the Senate the following year. Polster was selected by a federal judicial panel in December 2017 to oversee more than 200 consolidated opioid-related lawsuits in multidistrict litigation.

New York City’s lawsuit targeted several companies led by Purdue Pharma, the creator of OxyContin. One of the original high-strength opioids, OxyContin entered the market two decades ago with an aggressive marketing campaign that failed to include warnings about addiction or abuse. Other defendants named in the lawsuit include Endo, the manufacturer of Percocet; Janssen, a fentanyl patch manufacturer; and Cephalon, the creator of fentanyl lozenge Actiq. Other defendants in the case include Teva, Watson, Johnson & Johnson, and Allegran.

High profile cases of opiate abuse have recently been in the headlines, with singers Prince and Tom Petty having fentanyl in their bloodstreams at the time of their deaths in 2015 and 2017. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 47.7 million people in the United States abused prescription drugs or used illegal substances in 2015, with almost five out of every one hundred people abusing prescription painkillers. That same year, over 50,000 drug overdose deaths were recorded, with prescription or illegal opioids accounting for over 60% of those deaths.

Mayor de Blasio said the opioid epidemic was “a national tragedy” during a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “It’s time for Big Pharma to pay for what they’ve done.” Zachary Carter, New York City’s top prosecutor, denied the idea that the lawsuit represented a city initiative, calling it a “coincidence of timing”. New York City’s suit is similar to one the city of Chicago filed in 2014, a case that has produced millions of pages of documents and hundreds of interviews. New York City is being represented by Simmons, Hanly, Conroy, a firm based in Alton, Ill., in the suit.

Iowa Couple Wins Legal Malpractice Suit After Adoption Messup

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Rachel and Heidi McFarland were in the process of adopting a child when their baby was suddenly reclaimed by his biological parents. In a tragic twist, the baby was then murdered by one of the biological parents just five weeks later. While nothing would totally heal the wounds of the to-be adoptive parents, the McFarlands have gone on to win a $3.25 million malpractice suit against their lawyer, Jason Rieper, who was allegedly negligent in handling the severing of parental rights during the adoption process which led to the baby being taken away from them. “The release of custody never got signed by either birth parent. Obviously our child and us weren’t a priority to [Rieper]. We are just happy he was found negligent,” was how Rachel McFarland characterized it.

This was the culmination of a suit filed in August 2014, which in turn began when Gabriel, their baby, was born in December 2013. The McFarlands had arranged for 16-year-old Markeya Atkins, the daughter of a coworker of Rachel’s, to serve as their surrogate. “We coached her through labor. I cut the umbilical cord. He was in our arms and care the second he was born,” Rachel McFarland said. However, three months later, Atkins exercised her right to reclaim the baby, which was possible since Rieper had failed to sever the parental rights in the adoption process. Rieper’s attorney, David Brown, disputes this telling, saying that Rieper was not negligent and that Atkins’ emotions are the true culprit here. “You can’t control the emotion of a birth mom, and you can’t control the emotions of a 16-year-old birth mom. At the end, [Atkins] wasn’t going to do it and the suggestion that [Rieper] was to force her to do it would be unethical for him,” Brown claims. Brown went as far as to say “forcing” her to sign away the rights would have been “inappropriate”.

The McFarlands discovered that Gabriel had passed away by way of the local news five weeks after giving up their child. The McFarlands say they soon received a written report that the baby was found dead, and they had to confirm it via text to Atkins’ mother. According to Rachel, Heidi reacted by screaming. Gabriel was discovered dead on April 22, 2014 when Atkins arrived at her apartment and found the baby “alone, pale, wet and foaming from his mouth and nose,” as she told the Des Moines Register. An investigation later revealed head trauma was the cause of the baby’s death. Drew James Weehler-Smith, Gabriel’s birth father, was charged with taking care of the baby while Atkins was out. Weehler-Smith has since plead guilty to a charge of second-degree murder and is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence.

Since then, Atkins has attempted to justify her reclaiming of Gabriel saying that she was worried the McFarlands were pushing her out of the baby’s life. “It’s like after I gave the baby to them, they didn’t care,” Atkins said. She also affirms that she had grown to love her baby very much. As for the McFarlands, they were approached by someone else offering up their baby for adoption, and they are currently raising a daughter named Vienna, although they continue to mourn the loss of Gabriel.

Minority Voting Rights At Risk in Georgia: Lawsuit

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Georgia’s strict system for adding new voters to the rolls risks disenfranchising tens of thousands of minorities in the battleground state this fall, according to a new lawsuit by several voting rights groups.

Since July 2013, Georgia has failed to process more than 42,000 voter registration applications because the personal information provided didn’t exactly match existing information in state-maintained databases, lawyers for the groups said. Over 86 percent of those whose applications weren’t processed were non-white, even though whites have made up nearly half of those who have sought to register during that period.

 

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court, charges that the “exact match” system used by Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp violates the Voting Rights Act’s ban on racial discrimination in voting. It asks that the state be required to stop using the system immediately, while there’s still time for affected applicants to be added to the rolls.

Related:

Adverse Court Rulings Could Threaten Voting Rights This Fall

“Georgia, like many states across the country, has erected another burdensome and unnecessary obstacle for those seeking to register and vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the lead groups behind the suit. “The Secretary of State’s exact-match program penalizes those seeking to register and vote because of errors contained in databases maintained by the state.”

Kemp’s office says it’s following the law.

“The verification process Georgia currently uses was pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department in 2010,” said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for the Georgia secretary of state. “This lawsuit is an effort by liberal groups to disrupt voter registration just weeks before November’s election.”

Until 2013, Georgia was among the states required to “pre-clear” any changes to its voting rules with the federal government, to ensure they didn’t harm racial minorities. Kemp instituted the system soon after taking office in 2010.

Image: A poll worker hands a sticker to a voter

Poll worker Delores Peterson, left, hands a sticker to a voter after they casted their ballot in Georgia’s primary election at a polling site in Atlanta. Georgians have a week left to vote early in primary runoff elections set for July 26. David Goldman / AP, file

But voting rights groups say that at the time the Justice Department approved it, data showing that the system disproportionately affects racial minorities didn’t exist, since the system hadn’t yet gone into effect.

The controversy comes at a time when Georgia’s non-white population is soaring. Thanks to an influx of African-Americans from other parts of the U.S., as well as Hispanic and Asian immigrants, the state will be majority non-white by 2025, according to one projection made last year.

The demographic changes threaten to upend Georgia’s political balance.

It’s voted Republican in the last five presidential elections, but polls show Donald Trump clinging to only a

very narrow lead over Hillary Clinton there.

Related:

Could Voting Restrictions Be Trump’s Ace in the Hole?

Under Georgia’s system for handling voter registration applications, even very minor discrepancies — a missing accent, hyphen, or middle initial, for instance — between the personal information provided and the information contained in the state’s motor vehicle department or Social Security Administration databases can cause an application not to be processed.

A woman whose driver’s license information is under her maiden name but who registers to vote under her married name might also be tripped up. Voting rights advocates say blacks, Hispanics, and Asians are more likely to have names with the kind of unusual features that lead to discrepancies.

And they say the error might not even be made by the voter, but rather by the government worker processing the application, or the one who entered the original information in the state’s motor vehicle or Social Security Administration database.

A 2009 report by that agency looked at how well voter registration information matched with the records in the Social Security Administration database used by states. It found numerous potential problems, and concluded that the “high no-match response rate and the inconsistent verification responses could hinder the states’ ability to determine whether applicants should be allowed to vote.”

“There’s a big problem here with the fundamental right to vote being dependent on the accuracy of data-entry by a government agency,” said Michelle Kanter-Cohen, a lawyer with Project Vote, which is helping to bring the case.

The state does offer those who fall victim to the mismatch problem a chance to fix it. But voting rights advocates say it’s far too difficult.

Related:

SCOTUS Unanimously Rejects Challenge to ‘One Person, One Vote’

Applicants are notified by mail and given 40 days from when the letter was issued to fix the mismatch — otherwise their application is rejected. But for those whose applications didn’t match with Social Security Administration data, the letter they receive doesn’t tell them what the mismatch was or offer any additional information, making it potentially difficult to resolve the issue.

“It is not clear how voter applicants could even begin this process without more information or guidance from the State,” the complaint alleges.

Voting rights advocates also say they’re concerned that Kemp isn’t following through on assurances he gave Department of Justice when the system was approved that his office would first check any mismatches to make sure that they weren’t the result of data-entry errors, before contacting the applicant and requiring them to take another step.

Kemp’s office declined to comment on the claim.

This isn’t the first time that Kemp has been accused of making it harder for racial minorities to vote.

In the lead-up to the 2014 election, he generated

national headlines when he launched a controversial probe of an organization led by a top Democratic state lawmaker that was working to register African-American voters.

“There is simply no legitimate reason why this flawed process should be allowed to continue to disenfranchise eligible Georgians,” Francys Johnson, president of the Georgia NAACP, said in a statement. “…the evidence shows that the process is disproportionately preventing African American, Latino and Asian American applicants from completing the registration process and is denying them their fundamental right to vote.”
Source: NBC News

ACC to Pull Title Games out of N.C. over Bathroom Bill

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It was one thing when the NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte over North Carolina’s House Bill 2 — a measure widely criticized as discriminatory toward the LGBT community — but mess with college sports in the Tar Heel State, and HB2 might really be in trouble.

On Wednesday, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) announced it would be relocating all neutral-site championships for the 2016-17 season from North Carolina over the state’s so-called “bathroom law” — legislation best known for barring transgender people from using government building bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities. The most notable championship the decision will cost the state is the ACC’s football title game, which was scheduled to take place in Charlotte.

Related: NCAA Pulls Seven Championships Out of North Carolina Over HB2

Wednesday’s action comes less than 48 hours after the NCAA sent a similar message to North Carolina, announcing it would pull seven championship events from the state in the coming school year over the controversial law.

It also follows months of protests and calls to repeal the measure, all of which have gone unheeded by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature and Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who’s running for re-election.

Yet given how important college sports are in North Carolina — a state that has hosted more men’s basketball tournament games (251) than any other in the last 65 years — lawmakers may now be under more pressure than ever to repeal HB2.

“College sports has been the biggest thing in North Carolina going back 70 years,” said Dr. Thad Williamson, an associate professor of leadership studies at the University of Richmond and author of the book, “More Than a Game: Why North Carolina Basketball Means So Much to So Many.”

Related: Opinion: NCAA Should Stand Up to Discriminatory Universities Like it Did to HB2

“For most people, it’s the thing that bonds families together. Seats get passed down to grandkids. It’s a huge part of everyday life in North Carolina,” Williamson said. “I think [the NCAA’s decision] is going to get a lot of people speaking about HB2 and realizing that nationwide revulsion against this law is not going away anytime soon.”

The loss of the games will undoubtedly add to the financial toll HB2 has already taken on the state.

In addition to the $100 million tourism experts believe the NBA All-Star game would have brought to North Carolina, the Charlotte Chamber has estimated an economic blow of $285 million and a loss of as many as 1,300 jobs in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region as a result of HB2. The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, meanwhile, has projected the law could cost Raleigh as much as $40 million in convention business.

Companies like PayPal have backed out of major expansions in the state over the law, and musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Itzhak Perlman have canceled shows.

But college sports are different for North Carolinians and represent something more than dollar signs.

“[W]e’re a state that loves sports,” wrote Ed Hardin in an article that graced the front of the Greensboro News & Record’s sports page on Tuesday. “We’re a state that considers basketball and soccer and baseball and golf to be part of our identity. We’ve hosted a men’s postseason basketball tournament, ACC or NCAA, every year since 1985, but we won’t in 2017.”

“This is a blow to our way of life,” he said.

Related: NC Gov. Pat McCrory: Business Lobby Group Helped Shape LGBTQ Law

Still, some aren’t convinced the latest action against North Carolina will have much impact. The Republican leadership has already stood by HB2 through costly boycotts and multiple lawsuits against the state — including one spearheaded by the U.S. Justice Department — that some critics can’t imagine anything changing their minds at this point.

“It’s hard to believe that lawmakers in North Carolina haven’t already repealed the law, given the repercussions and clear disagreements that voters in the state have with it,” said Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports.com. “Will this be what pushes [the repeal effort] over the edge? I can’t get inside the heads of North Carolina Republicans.”

McCrory, who signed HB2 into law after a one-day special session last March, appeared as defiant as ever on Tuesday, saying in a statement that the NCAA had “failed to show… respect” for the states now grappling with questions of transgender rights and privacy concerns — an issue, he noted, that would ultimately be settled by the federal judiciary.

“I strongly encourage all public and private institutions to both respect and allow our nation’s judicial system to proceed without economic threats or political retaliation toward the 22 states that are currently challenging government overreach,” McCrory said, referencing two separate, multi-state lawsuits against the Obama administration’s guidance that public schools grant transgender students access to the bathrooms of their choice.

“Sadly,” said McCrory, “the NCAA, a multi-billion dollar, tax-exempt monopoly, failed to show this respect at the expense of our student athletes and hard-working men and women.”

A spokeswoman with the state Republican Party also spoke out against the NCAA’s move, calling it “so absurd it’s almost comical.”

“I genuinely look forward to the NCAA merging all men’s and women’s teams together as singular, unified, unisex teams,” said the spokeswoman, Kami Mueller, in a statement viewed by critics as a less-than-encouraging sign change would come from the legislature.

Yet, for their part, the two schools with perhaps the most to lose from the NCAA’s decision — Duke and the University of North Carolina — each came out in support of the action.

Related: Texas, Other States File to Support North Carolina’s HB2 Bathroom Law

“Duke agrees with the decision,” said the school’s president, Richard Brodhead, on MSNBC Tuesday. “It was the NCAA’s to decide, and obviously they have many things to try to compute, and I think at the end of the day they regarded this as a fairness and equal rights, equal protection kind of issue. Certainly that’s the way that we see it.”

North Carolina Rep. Darren Jackson, a Democrat who introduced a failed bill to repeal HB2 last session, told NBC News he would try again when the legislature reconvenes in January. The NCAA’s decision, he said, may help his cause.

“I think it’s certainly going to put it back on the front page. Though I don’t know if it will change the minds of our Republican governor and leadership,” he said. “They’re pretty dug in.”

LGBT rights activists, meanwhile, are confident the courts will side with them, even if lawmakers never will. Last month, a federal judge issued a limited injunction against HB2, saying the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on claims the law violates existing federal protections. The same judge is scheduled to hear the full challenge in May.

“If the legislature does not fix this, we are confident that the law will eventually be overturned in court,” said Mike Meno, communications director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “We’re optimistic that HB2’s days are numbered.”

Source: NBC News

SCOTUS Rejects Early Voting Week in Ohio

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In this June 20, 2016, photo, The Supreme Court is seen in Washington. Alex Brandon / AP

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a request from Ohio Democrats who sought to restore an extra week of early voting before the November general election in a critical swing state.

After Ohio voters endured long lines in 2004, some stretching into the early morning hours, the state added another week for early voting. Five of the extra days overlapped with the period for voter registration — a time that came to be known as the Golden Week, allowing residents to register and vote at the same time.

“This period has played an exceptional, historic role in promoting voter registration and turnout in the past two presidential elections, especially in minority communities,” Ohio Democrats said.

Related:

Court Upholds Ohio’s Cuts to Early Voting, Same-Day Registration

But Golden Week was repealed by the Republican controlled legislature in 2013. Earlier this year, a federal judge declared that action unconstitutional, finding that it discriminated against minority voters. But that ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court.

In a one-sentence order with no noted dissents, the Supreme Court Tuesday declined to step in, leaving the appeals court ruling — and the rollback in early voting — intact.

Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California Irvine, said he expected the Supreme Court to reject the request from Ohio Democrats.

“Ohio’s early voting/no excuse absentee balloting period is exceedingly generous. And while I might support Golden Week as good policy, I worry when courts are used in this way to prevent every cutback in voting.”

The Supreme Court has traditionally been reluctant to impose voting changes in the days leading up to an election.

Ohio had argued that the rollback was needed to reduce administrative burdens on local election officials.
Source: NBC News

Double-voting – even triple-voting – found in US elections

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Once was apparently not enough for Pasco Parker.

 

Prosecutors say the 63-year-old Tennessee man voted in the 2012 presidential election, not once … not twice … but three times, in three different states.

 

“It’s too easy to vote twice, it comes down to your honor,” said Jay DeLancy, executive director of North Carolina volunteer voting watchdog group The Voting Integrity Project, which caught Parker.

 

DeLancy cited the case as an example of the kind of voter fraud that some have dismissed as overblown. “It’s a lot more widespread than what people think, because the general public thinks there is no voter fraud. As proof they look at prosecutions, but we have learned how difficult it is to get prosecutions,” he said.

 

It was DeLancy’s group that brought Parker’s case to the attention of election officials and law enforcement – and Parker is not alone. His was one of 149 cases of suspected double-voting DeLancy says his group has turned over.

 

In Parker’s case, he was charged with voter fraud for votes in the Nov. 6, 2012, presidential election. He voted in person at his polling place in Spring Hill, Tenn. Authorities say that was after previously mailing in another vote by absentee ballot in Florida on Oct. 28, and yet another absentee ballot vote in North Carolina the following day. He pleaded guilty to felony voter registration and felony voting fraud in Rutherford County, N.C., last November, and was spared jail time under the law.

 

The latest headlines on the 2016 elections from the biggest name in politics. See Latest Coverage →

In Wisconsin, 52-year-old Robert Monroe also was sentenced to jail earlier this year after he was charged with 13 counts of election fraud, including multiple voting and voting twice in the 2012 presidential race. Prosecutors say Monroe voted by absentee ballot, where he lives in Shorewood, Wis., on Nov. 1, 2012. Then on election day five days later, authorities say he drove four hours south to Lebanon, Ind., to vote in person, using his Indiana drivers license to sign in.

 

Even a 2012 Democratic congressional candidate was caught and had to drop out of the race.

 

Party officials said candidate Wendy Rosen, who was running in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, had voted twice in Maryland and Florida in two separate elections. She pleaded guilty to voting illegally in two elections.

 

And in Cincinnati, veteran poll worker Melowese Richardson was accused of voting twice in the 2012 presidential election, after Hamilton County prosecutors charged her in 2013 with eight counts of illegal voting over several elections. She pleaded guilty to four counts, and prosecutors said she had even voted in the presidential election for her sister, who had been in a coma for almost a decade. Richardson was sentenced to five years in prison but was released early.

 

In Kansas, Lincoln Wilson also was charged with voting in both that state and in Colorado, where records show he is a registered Republican. He was accused of multiple counts stemming from the 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections.

 

And this past June, it turned out that the California presidential primary was not immune to the double-voting phenomenon. The East Bay Times reported that “in just three counties, Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara, 194 people voted twice, suggesting the abuse statewide might run into the thousands.”

 

Some suggest the number of potential double voters could be much higher than that.

 

A 2012 Pew Center on The States study said “approximately 2.75 million people have registrations in more than one state.” Pew said 68,000 people were registered in three states, and 1,807 were even registered in three states.

 

Others contend the matches of voters’ names in two or multiple states are merely coincidences and clerical errors, and that the potential for people voting more than once is overblown.

 

The Brennan Center for Justice, considered the nation’s leading election system monitoring group, issued a 2007 report on the problem. It said “these cases are extremely rare, in part because the penalty (criminal prosecution) is so severe, and the payoff (one incremental vote) is so minimal. It is far more common, however, to see allegations of epidemic double-voting that are unfounded. Such claims are usually premised on matching lists of voters from one place to another, but upon closer inspection, the match process shows error.”

 

While elections officials insist that there are sufficient safeguards to prevent double-voting, DeLancy fears the possibility is very real, as evidenced by the cases his group has seen. He says prosecutors need to do more.

 

“Election fraud is a crime against the entire American public. It is a crime against the Constitution and a crime against the foundations of our nation,” he said.

 

Follow Eric Shawn on Twitter: @EricShawnTV

 

Ben Evansky contributed to this report.

 

 

 

Source: Fox

Why Jerry Brown Should Veto AB 2844 In California

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A bill intended to suppress boycotts in support of human rights and social justice has passed the California Legislature over the opposition of the state Department of Finance, which predicted it could cost the state more than $140 million and get tied up in litigation – all for accomplishing nothing more than existing statutes already provide. For that reason alone, our fiscally minded Governor Jerry Brown, a man who once marched alongside worker champion Cesar Chavez, should veto AB 2844.

But it gets worse. The Israel lobby’s core goal with this proposed legislation – a phenomenon being replicated in about half the states’ legislatures — is to demonize and even outlaw boycott, divestment and sanctions (known as “BDS”) campaigns for Palestinian rights. These campaigns have gained momentum in recent years as more and more Americans become fed up with the unjust and untenable status quo in Israel/Palestine, propped up by billions in U.S. military aid.

Dozens of student governments have passed resolutions, and a growing number of mainstream churches have adopted boycott and/or divestment strategies after concluding that “engagement” with Israel or with corporations whose business activities uphold international law violations was ineffective. A recent Brookings Institution poll found 49 percent of Democrats would support sanctions against Israel for its illegal settlement construction in occupied Palestinian territory.

As passed, AB 2844’s convoluted, obtuse language would cast a pall of suspicion over anyone who pursues a “policy … against any sovereign nation or peoples recognized by the government of the United States, including, but not limited to, the nation and people of Israel.” It would force any entity – business or non-profit grant applicant – that wants to bid on a public state contract worth $100,000 or more to certify, under penalty of perjury – a felony – that this “policy” is not a pretext for “unlawful discrimination” under existing California civil rights law.

That this veneer of anti-discrimination language is itself a pretext is demonstrated by the fact that the word “discrimination” appeared nowhere in the bill’s early versions. But as the proponents’ repeated statements attest, it can’t hide what remains their goal: To single out, stigmatize and pave the way for suppression of those who advocate for Palestinian human rights, absurdly conflating criticism of a country’s policies with anti-Semitism.

Unlawful discrimination by state contractors is already prohibited under laws named in AB 2844. So taken at face value, this new law would be utterly redundant – except for the fact that it would open the door for a witch-hunt, involving creation of an unprecedented thought crime.

Under AB 2844, anyone may submit complaints to state officials, who would then have to investigate and possibly prosecute a business, or even nonprofit charitable institutions like churches, for boycotting products from illegal Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

And such complaints would surely come: Staunch defenders of Israel already deluge federal and state agencies, universities and mass media with allegations that critics of Israel, especially faculty and student groups, present a threat to Jewish students. Their complaints have been investigated — and consistently, resoundingly dismissed. But AB 2844 would provide them with more ammunition to obfuscate the distinction between acting on political principle and committing unlawful discrimination.

AB 2844 would have state employees act as thought police under a law that if signed, may qualify as the most vague statute ever. “Policy,” for instance, is not defined in the bill, nor anywhere in California’s codes. And a longstanding constitutional rule ensuring elementary due process dictates that a law must be extra clear in describing any act that might result in criminal prosecution. “Pretext for discrimination” is anything but clear.

Furthermore, the costs of implementing AB 2844 could be staggering. Asked for input from the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Attorney General’s Office, explicitly tasked with handling complaints until the last round of amendments, predicted it would cost $625,000 a year to receive complaints, investigate and possibly prosecute. Now, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and others will be responsible instead, but the costly mandate to investigate remains unchanged. Committee staff further estimate that the narrowed field of bidders resulting from companies or non-profits that refuse to sign the affidavits could cost the state an additional $140 million a year.

What’s this all about anyway?

Israeli officials and their U.S. surrogates are losing ground in their efforts to deflect growing criticism of Israel’s nearly 50-year-old military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights. Along with the occupation comes theft of Palestinian land for settlements that violate international law and longstanding official U.S. policy, escalating racism against non-Jews, the destruction of Palestinian homes, extrajudicial executions and the suffocating Gaza blockade. More and more Californians are responding to Palestinian civil society’s call for non-violent solidarity in the form of boycott and divestment campaigns to advance long-denied Palestinian human rights and freedom.

So instead, defenders of the status quo are trying to legislate against criticism with anti-boycott bills introduced in Congress and about half the states. Fortunately, civil libertarians are mobilizing to resist, not only in California but also in Massachusetts, Virginia and Maryland, where efforts have been stymied. When a bill stalled in New York recently, Gov. Cuomo called the legislative process “tedious” and implemented draconian anti-boycott rules by executive order. Lawsuits are brewing.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, American Civil Liberties Union, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, CODEPINK, Palestine Legal and many other civil and human rights organizations have come out in opposition to AB 2844 and similar bills, warning that such legislation threatens our First Amendment right to free speech and in the case of AB 2844, our Fifth Amendment right to due process.

2016-09-02-1472789784-1298098-BillofRights.jpg

A California Assembly Judiciary Committee analysis of an earlier version of AB 2844 remains pertinent because it addressed what are still the motives behind the bill: “It is difficult,” the consultant wrote, “to imagine legislation more clearly calculated to have a chilling impact on the exercise of protected speech.”

Legislators should pay attention to the growing number of constituents who support Palestinian rights, lest they find themselves on the wrong side of history. But even if these lawmakers are not yet on board with the cause, they should defeat AB 2844 because it undermines free speech wile robbing citizens of resources needed to provide vital services such as public education and health care.

For these reasons, we – members of the statewide Coalition to STOP AB 2844 – urge Governor Brown to reject this bill.

We commend Governor Brown for his past support of farm workers during their boycott campaigns and urge him to stand once again on the right side of history by vetoing AB 2844.

Please add your voice to our call for a veto. Sign one of the on-line petitions and contact the Governor directly:

Phone: 916-445-2841
FAX: 916-558-3160
Email Brown: https://govnews.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php

Post a comment on his “Contact” page: https://govnews.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php

NO on AB 2844 petitions:

About the Authors

David L. Mandel is an active member of the Sacramento chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace and the National Lawyers Guild, and has been coordinating the statewide coalition opposed to AB 2844. A longtime journalist and former legal aid manager, he lived in Israel for 10 years and is a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen.

Marcy Winograd, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, is a former congressional peace candidate who led a protest delegation to the office of the bill’s principal author, Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica).

Source: Huff Post Crime

Remains of Missing ‘Jacob’s Law’ Boy Found

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A missing persons poster shows Jacob Wetterling in 1989 and as he might have looked in 2014.
Twenty-seven years after his disappearance led to the creation of “Jacob’s Law” child protection statutes across the country, the remains of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling have finally been found, Minnesota authorities said Saturday.

Details of where and when Jacob’s remains were found weren’t disclosed, but the Stearns County Sheriff’s Office said the identification was confirmed by a medical examiner and a review by a forensic expert specializing in teeth.

Jacob’s mother, Patty Wetterling, told NBC station KARE of Minneapolis that “our hearts are broken.”

The family posted a separate statement on the website of the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center, an organization started in Jacob’s honor to prevent the exploitation of children.

“We are in deep grief. We didn’t want Jacob’s story to end this way,” the family said. “Our hearts are heavy, but we are being held up by all of the people who have been a part of making Jacob’s Hope a light that will never be extinguished.”

“Jacob, you are loved,” it said.

Jacob vanished while on a bike ride home from a convenience store in Stearns County in October 1989. His brother and another boy, who made it home, said a masked gunman had taken him.

Patty Wetterling, who always kept hope that her son would be found alive, became a national advocate for children. In 1994, Congress passed a law named after Jacob Wetterling requiring states to establish sex offender registries.

Related:

Mother Pens Emotional Birthday Note to Son Jacob Wetterling, Who Disappeared 26 Years Ago

Jacob, along with his brother and a friend, were riding their bikes around town near St. Joseph, Minn., about 25 miles west of Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, when a masked gunman kidnapped him and let the others go.

Daniel Heinrich. Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office

Minnesota police aggressively pursued all available leads over the years, but no solid leads emerged until last year, when authorities arrested Danny Heinrich, 53, and declared him a “person of interest.”

They recovered books of child pornography, as well as a DNA sample allegedly tying Heinrich to the kidnapping and sexual assault of another Stearns County boy from the same time period. No charges can be filed in that case, however, as the statute of limitations has passed.

Heinrich’s brother, David Heinrich, his voice breaking with emotion, said Saturday that his prayers were with the Wetterling family.

“I want the Wetterlings to know I had no idea,” David Heinrich told KARE. “I am happy for them that they know — not that he’s passed, but at least they have closure.”

Jacob’s disappearance helped focus national attention on the sexual predation of children. In 1994, Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, requiring states to implement registries of sex offenders and those who commit other crimes against children.

The law was amended in 1996 by what’s known as Megan’s Law, which requires law enforcement agencies to make such information public. Numerous states passed similar laws, some of them named specifically for Jacob.

Jacob Wetterling. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith both issued statements wishing the Wetterlings solace and closure.

“For nearly 27 years, Minnesotans have held the Wetterling family in their thoughts and prayers, as they never gave up hope and never stopped searching for their beloved Jacob. Today, we continue to offer our love and support, as the Wetterling family finally brings their son home to rest,” Dayton said.

“That pain won’t end today. But as the Wetterling family finally brings Jacob home, I hope they will find love and support in the thousands of families, including mine, in Minnesota, who have hurt, hoped, and prayed alongside them,” Smith added in her own statement.
Source: NBC News

North Carolina transgender bathroom trial delayed

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The trial over a North Carolina law governing transgender restroom access is being pushed back by several months, an attorney for residents challenging the law said Friday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake partly granted a request to delay the North Carolina proceedings while the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to hear a Virginia case on transgender restroom access, according to a brief entry in the federal court docket.

James Esseks, an ACLU lawyer on the team representing three transgender residents, said the judge’s order means the case will be pushed back from its November trial date until May.

The so-called HB2 law requires transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate, not their gender identity. It also limits other antidiscrimination protections for LGBT people.

The ACLU and the U.S. Justice Department are challenging the law, while North Carolina’s Republican governor and legislative leaders are defending it.

The Republican leaders had asked the court to halt the proceedings while the Supreme Court decides if it will take the Virginia case, which centers around a transgender high school student who is asking officials to allow him to use a male restroom.

Meanwhile, the transgender plaintiffs in North Carolina received a favorable ruling when a judge ruled that they must be allowed to use restrooms conforming to their gender identity. They have asked an appeals court to expand that ruling to all transgender people in the state, not just those involved in the lawsuit.

Esseks said the ACLU got behind the request for a delay because it wants to give the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals time to consider that request.

Source: Fox