Talking to a group of students I was asked, “What are we marching for Ms. D?”. I realized during that conversation that there’s a generational gap and transfer of knowledge regarding our story and struggle. Throughout our lively dialog I shared the following:
Sherry Gay-Dagnogo speaking at City Council hearing Aug. 30, 2012
Every right we have in America, someone took a stand that wasn’t always popular or embraced. I shared that Detroit finds itself in utter turmoil with the existence of Emergency Managers controlling our city and schools, coupled with the existence of a separate and unequal education experiment the Educational Achievement Authority. While the aforementioned systems have systemic challenges that demand systematic resolution, the methodologies used by those in power does nothing more than widen the gap of race, power and privilege polarization.
Voter’s Rights are under attack and the basic quality of life we so freely enjoy is being eroded by the attack on labor, the lack of jobs, and legislation seeking to further nullify our rights. The Emergency Manager’s recent threat to misuse Michigan’s legislative process to place a choke hold on seniors’ pensions while protecting art at the DIA is wrong! We still have not recovered from the blatant attack on Democracy during the lame duck passage of a new EM Law and Right to Work legislation. This form of government is the very essence of hypocrisy of democracy.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading freedom march in Detroit, June 23, 1963. He had no corporate sponsors, and many ministers in the city, including Black pastors, refused to march with him., That situation is reminiscent of the reaction to the current EM/bankers’ takeover of Detroit,
Dr. King shared his views on unjust laws in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, in which he addressed the media’s attempt to categorize him as lawless and contradictory to the cause of peace and nonviolence.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Memphis to support striking AFSCME sanitation workers and was assassinated there shortly after he marched with them.
“You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.”
Carpool during Montgomery bus boycott, which brought Jim Crow to its knees.
That is why we must all gather to march for a change in our legislature, a change in our educational systems, to protect our voting rights, to protect labor, to renounce power and privilege over the will of the people. We must march to write a new chapter in Detroit as we take a stand for Democracy during Freedom Walk, Saturday, June 22nd, 9 a.m., gathering at Woodward and Forest. Together we can restore Voting Rights and Democracy for Detroit!
While VOD certainly supports any march commemorating the heroism of Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., we question the NAACP and the UAW, indicated as sponsors of this march, on why they are not using Dr. King’s most effective tactics, e.g. the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the strike of Memphis AFSCME workers in 1968, during which he was assassinated.
(VOD editor’s note: Story will be forthcoming shortly from VOD on Kevyn Orr’s meeting with the creditors, which we covered as seen in the photo above from the Detroit News. Meanwhile, this is an excellent article by Nsoroma Institute African Community Studies teacher and historian Jamon Jordan, published on his Facebook page.)
Detroit youth enjoy Belle Isle Sept. 14, 2012.
Okay, so the Detroit Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr has said that he plans to give Belle Isle to the State (long term lease with administrative control over the island). He has also said that the Water Dept., which is the most powerful resource the city of Detroit has, will be surrendered to a private or regional entity and be refinanced so that the city’s control will be effectively ended.
Many applaud Orr as being a fiscally serious problem solver who is fixing what Detroit political leaders have been too lazy or inept to do for decades? But is THAT the case?
As a historian, I do NOT view present reality in a vacuum. One must take a HISTORICAL view to understand present-day conditions. So how REALLY did Detroit get in this financial quandary?
Dr. Ossian Sweet and his family’s house, which he defended from a white mob in the 1920′s. He was charged and later acquitted. His attorney was Clarence Darrow.
1.) In the early 1900s, Black people fled the South in what is known as the Great Migration. They were fleeing racism, sharecropping, lynchings and lack of political power and civil rights. They came to cities like Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Cincinnati and Detroit. This caused major racial tensions in the North. In Detroit in the 1920s, Dr. Ossian Sweet killed a white man who was part of a mob gathered outside of his house. In the 1940s, there were a number of incidents involving whites attacking Black people for moving in all-white areas. The most significant being the Detroit race riot of 1943.
2.) As a result of white supremacy, Henry Ford created a few white cities (Westland, Garden City, Wayne) so that whites would not have to live near the Black people who were working in his and other auto factories. However, this was not enough. So MORE suburbs were built and the federal government colluded with white leaders in Michigan to steer federal funds to build roads and highways that would lead whites out of the city to their federally financed homes, and INTO the city to their inner-city jobs. One of these freeways, I-75/375 was extended to downtown Detroit and destroyed the Black business district – Paradise Valley.
While Detroit Mayor Edward Jeffries may have initiated the Detroit Plan in the late 1940s, it was his successor Mayor Albert Cobo, 1950-57, (above, pointing) who pile-drived the idea into something tangible. Though regarded as a good mayor by 1950s standards, Cobo definitely set in place a social minefield of problems which would later explode on his successors. Perhaps history has granted him leniency because he died in office. Nevertheless, his failure to address the acute black housing problem may have pleased his constituents, but it was to spell doom for the city in the racial upheaval of the 1960s. From: Detroit: The Blood Never Dried.
3.) The city, which was run by white leaders totally, took out loans to build roads, water infrastructure, and all the necessities so that white workers would have the amenities they needed in their new suburban digs.
4.) To afford to live in these suburban areas, the city employees needed FAT retirement packages and LARGE health care benefits. The white city leaders granted these packages forcing the burden on future generations of Detroiters and workers. Understand, that this is the 40s, 50s, & 60s, and the city workforce was nearly ALL-WHITE.
Northland Mall in 1954. It was built on Southfield swampland just outside the white northwest side of Detroit by the J.L. Hudson Company,
5.) At the same time, with whites moving to the suburbs at increasing speed, the tax monies the city received began to fall. Major retailers and manufacturers began to move to the suburbs because they KNEW that whites were beginning to stop shopping in Detroit, while at the same time, they knew that Black people WOULD venture to the suburbs in order to shop. At that time, suburban malls and shopping centers became the mainstay of suburbs and Detroit retailers began to fold one by one.
6.) The MAJOR retailers were then given MAJOR tax abatements in order to keep them in the inner city – General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Hudson’s, Michigan Bell, and so on…However, many of them took the money they saved from tax abatements and build mall stores and suburban shops and CLOSED their stores, thus abandoning Detroit and depleting the finances of the city.
Hedge fund vultures
7.) Detroit HAD to sell bonds to try and stay afloat. Wall Street knew that municipal bonds would be paid with interest even if a state/federal bailout was necessary, as what happened in New York City in the 70s. Wall Street effectively controlled the economy of the city for the last 40 years, and much of the so-called debt, is NOT to vendors, but to Wall Street billionaire investors and firms.
8.) John Engler, in a bid to corporations and conservative politics, made a deal with then-Mayor Dennis Archer in 1998. The state of Michigan would give Detroit $333.9 million annually for nine years in revenue sharing funds — if the city would ratchet down its highest-in-the-state city income tax rates. The city could have gained $700 million in additional funds in the period – for a city that has run repeated deficits (and piled up billions in bond & pension debt to compensate. Detroit lost $220 million worth of revenue sharing, plus $433 million to $508 million in income tax it wasn’t allowed to collect.
The next governor, Jennifer Granholm, had a failing economy and did not honor the deal, and no-Governor Rick Snyder, also acknowledges the deal, but refuses to honor following any part of it. Thus, at the very least, a half billion dollars due to Detroit is not forthcoming.
9.) Numerous corporations owe back taxes, and other fees to the city ofetroit. However, Wall Street has effectively forced Detroit to NOT go after these businesses, many of which are CLIENTS of the major Wall Street firms. If Detroit had vigorously sought to retrieve the missing dollars from these corporations (DTE, Chrysler, GM, Ford, AT&T, etc), Wall Street investors would have called in their bond markers which would have rendered Detroit bankrupt overnight.
10.) The reality is that Detroit’s emergency financial manager is NOT here to save the city. He is an agent not just of the state and Rick Snyder, but of the Wall Street investors and bond-holders who OWN Detroit’s debt. The same firms who bankrupted the nation in 2007-08, and destroyed the economy. At the same time, the rich and powerful are never made to feel the pinch of Detroit’s woes.
Whole Foods is now in Midtown because the city & state gave him tax abatements and development funds that will assure that the store makes money even if it never sells a thing. The deal for the tw0 Meijer’s Stores in Detroit is even larger.
Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History,
When the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) was threatened with its PRICELESS collections being sold, which would have wiped out the city’s debt IMMEDIATELY (one Rembrandt in the DIA is reportedly worth $250 million), the rich and powerful, who CONTROL the DIA and view it as their living room, forced the state to pass a law almost overnight to prevent that from EVER happening. However, that law does not pass on the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, which has items that are PRICELESS in our history. They may very well be sold or taken into receivership.
Jim Crow is dead! MLK Day March in Detroit, 2011.
The reality is, you don’t need to much of a historian or a media junkie to be aware that Emergency Managers and Emergency Financial Managers in Michigan have been largely unsuccessful in municipalities and school districts. No matter how they try to force-feed us fake fake facts, Robert Bobb and Roy Roberts have both failed to fix the finances of Detroit Public Schools. They have only been successful in giving large contracts to cronies, closing dozens of schools and giving many buildings away to charter schools and creating a rival district, the Educational Achievement Authority, that is FAILING. Numerous cities and school districts have had multiple emergency managers and/or have stayed in financial emergency for YEARS with the emergency manager being reappointed over and over again.
We must always challenge the standard narrative that is given to us in regards to what has happened. The standard version is generally speaking, a myth.
1.) Arnesen, Eric (2002). Black Protest and the Great Migration: A Brief History with Documents.
2.) Gregory, James N. (January 17, 2007). The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America.
Other officers, firearms expert contradict Weekley’s testimony
No fingerprints, DNA from Aiyana’s grandmother found on gun
Jury deliberating as of June 17, 2013
By Diane Bukowski
June 17, 2013
SRT Officer Joseph Weekley demonstrating handling of his weapon. His stance is simllar to that Mertilla Jones testified he used when he entered her doorway and shot Aiyana, 7, to death on entry. His trigger finger, however, is bent as if on the trigger.
DETROIT – Detroit Special Response Team (SRT) Officer Joseph Weekley, who shot Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, to death on May 16, 2010 with an MP5 submachine gun, took the stand June 13 in his own defense against charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm resulting in death.
He rolled his eyes to the ceiling, and his tongue under his lower lip as if moistening it, as defense attorney Steve Fishman began questioning him.
“You were here when you were accused by Mertilla Jones of intentionally murdering a seven-year-old,” Fishman said. “You said you have two daughters, right. How old were they in May of 2010?”
Mertilla Jones sobs during her testimony June 10, She and her family lived on Lillibridge near Mack, in a poor Black neighborhood,
Weekley, who lives in Grosse Pointe, responded that they were six and eight, and that he was at the park with them when he was recalled to the SRT base for the Jones home assault. Other officers have testified they were recalled between nine and 10 p.m.
“The first thing I see as I’m making entry is the room’s empty,” Weekley told Fishman. “There’s a TV on, there’s a couch to my immediate left with a bunch of laundry and blankets on the couch.”
Weekley referred to the couch where Aiyana and her grandmother Mertilla Jones were sleeping. Jones testified earlier that Aiyana’s head was resting on the arm of the couch and was not covered by her blanket. She said her own robe, which she used to cover herself for warmth, had come half-way off.
“As soon as the bang goes off, I hear a “haaaa” coming from up under underneath what I thought was laundry,” Weekley said, referring to the “bang” of the incendiary grenade that had just been tossed through the window over the couch.
Weapons expert Brent Sojea said he tested Weekley’s gun, shown in photo, repeatedly to see if it could fire without pulling the trigger. He said it could not,.
“And so now I’m like there’s someone hiding under here. As that’s happening, Vincent Ellis is twisting to retreat back in the room, so I was on Ellis, and then “ahhh,” I hear this noise and I see him [Ellis] going back. So I turned my attention to the blankets.”
Weekley referred to the man he and the second officer into the room, Shawn Stallard, saw standing in a bedroom door on the side of the living room, who was Aiyana’s uncle Vincent Ellis.
“I couldn’t just leave a person under there hiding,” Weekley said. “As I swing my weapon towards the person, an unidentified woman hits my weapon down with such force that my finger must have come off the master grip.”
Firearm safety involves keeping finger off trigger, even when someone grabs weapon.
On cross-examination, Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Moran said, “Your testimony is that you didn’t know you shot a gun, didn’t hear it shoot, didn’t feel it shoot at all. You testified you’ve already fired that gun a thousand times, but you didn’t feel it shoot.”
Weekley said, “In a controlled situation at a range, you feel the vibration of the gun,” and denied knowing his own gun had fired in the Jones home.
“So you’re trained not to put your finger on the trigger until you want to pull the trigger, and yet your finger pulled the trigger on the gun. You pulled the trigger, you fired the gun,” Moran said.
“I guess I just don’t like the way you’re saying it,” Weekley said. “I pulled the trigger on my gun and didn’t even realize it at the time.”
Expert depiction of Aiyana’s shooting by Weekley, after second autopsy showed she was shot through the top of the head, not her neck. Slide from family attorney Geoffrey Fieger.
Weekley testified about what happened after he heard the second “ahhh.”
“I couldn’t just leave a person under there hiding,” Weekley said. “As I swing my weapon towards the person, an unidentified woman hits my weapon down with such force that my finger must have come off the master grip.”
Other officers and a weapons expert testified earlier that an MP5 can’t fire unless the trigger is pulled, and that they are trained in “trigger discipline,” not to put their finger on the trigger unless they intend to shoot, even if someone tries to take the gun away.
The weapons expert said it takes six to eight pounds of pressure to pull the trigger on the actual gun Weekley used. He said he tested the gun numerous times by dropping it, pounding on it, and other methods, but it did not fire.
Toys in this photo, showing Charles Jones on front porch and Aiyana’s classmate Diamond, 7, are the same toys seen in the evidence technician’s photos of the house. Defense has contended it was too dark to see them, but there is a bright atreetlight just one door down, which was working according to other photos.
Moran continued with Weekley’s cross-exam.
“You did not try to control Mertilla Jones, you didn’t arrest her, at that point you kept on.”
“Oh yeah,” Weekley said emphatically.
Moran asked him whether he saw the children’s toys outside of the house when he and other SRT officers drove by earlier. They are clearly visible in an evidence technician’s photograph shown numerous times during the trial. Every officer who has testified has denied seeing the toys. Two said the presence of children in the house would not have changed their plans for the invasion, except to “be more careful.”
One officer said it is common for children to be in a “crack house.” Several officers have characterized the Jones home as such, with no substantiation and no objection from Moran or from Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway, who is hearing the case, regarding “facts not in evidence.”
“I did not see those toys, no I did not,” Weekley said. Moran told him, “You were able to see those numbers on the doors, but you did not see the toys.”
“No I did not,” Weekley said.
Aiyana’s mother Dominika Stanley on stand at beginning of trial.
Aiyana’s grandmother Mertilla Jones, her mother Dominika Stanley, her cousin Mark Robinson, and her aunt LaKrystal Sanders have all testified that the child’s grandmother was screaming repeatedly that the police shot Aiyana seconds after they entered the home. Jones and Stanley left the courtroom sobbing at one point during Weekley’s testimony. SRT team members have also testified they heard “screaming,” not “ahhhh.”
Jones testified during the trial June 10, and during her videotaped statement to the police May 16, 2010, that she did not grab Weekley or his gun. During that interrogation, she assented immediately to DNA and fingerprint tests.
“You can have them, baby,” she told the officers who were interrogating her.
A technician testified that neither fingerprints nor DNA from Mertilla Jones were found on the gun used to kill Aiyana.
Other members of the Special Response Team which raided the Jones home that day have given testimony which conflicts with Weekley’s as well as each other’s.
SRT Officer Shawn Stallard said he saw no one else in front of Weekley, and no struggle, during his testimony,
SRT Officer Shawn Stallard was second into the house. He testified June 11 that Weekley paused for a few seconds on the threshold of the house, and that he [Stallard] heard a gunshot “a few seconds” afterwards. He said he did not see anyone else in the doorway, and that no one else was in the immediate vicinity, either standing or on the ground. He said he saw no one struggling with Weekley.
Stallard said that when he heard the gunshot, he thought someone was shooting at the officers. Testimony has shown that the only bullet and shell casing found in the room was from Weekley’s gun, and that no civilian weapons were found in the house.
Stallard said he looked to the left to see where the gunshot came from. He said he saw Aiyana’s cousin Vincent Ellis standing in the bedroom doorway opening off the side of the living room a few feet from the couch.
Stallard said Ellis retreated when he heard the grenade go off, but that he and Weekley continued towards Ellis. He said found no gun in Ellis’ room, and that Ellis was dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, with no place to hide one. He said he handcuffed him and left him there while he went to search the other rooms to find the origin of the shot.
Stallard said he never saw anyone try to take Weekley’s gun away, and that he never saw handcuffs on any civilian in the living room. He said Weekley asked him around seven or eight a.m. that morning what he saw, and that he told him what he had just testified to.
“He was in a state of shock,” Stallard read from his grand jury testimony regarding Weekley’s reaction. “ . . .he just mentioned someone jumped up and grabbed my gun.”
Stallard testified he was also carrying an MP5 and a handgun. He said the MP5 “is a low recoiling weapon. . . [but] when you shoot an MP5 you know it’s been shot.”
Rafael Jones, 14, leads march for Justice for Aiyana and Charles Jones April 23 2012 at Frank Murphy Hall in downtown Detroit, grandmother Mertilla Jones at left, aunt LaKrystal Sanders at right. Sanders lived upstairs from the Jones family.
Sgt. John Collins, who had been on the SRT 18 years and with the DPD 26 years, said he was assigned to cover the left side door to the house, which led upstairs to the flat where Sanders and Chauncey Owens lived.
He said he heard a gunshot fired directly after the “diversionary device” was tossed through the window in the lower flat.
“My thought was that one of the guys had shot a canine, that a dog was being put down,” he said. “There were dogs barking everywhere.”
He said he and another officer broke the second door down, but then his attention was diverted.
Appearing quite emotional, he said, “I saw an SRT officer with a small child in his arms running towards the sidewalk. . . . Shortly afterwards, [Weekley] came out of the house while I was on the front porch. He was in a state of panic. I could tell he was under a lot of stress. He came at me and was saying ‘she grabbed my gun, she grabbed my gun.’ He was grabbing my MP5, which was hung over my right shoulder . . .He used both hands to grab at my gun.”
Collins said Weekley told him he had accidentally shot the little girl before grabbing at Collins’ gun. He said he tried to calm Weekley down.
Typical police armed vehicle known as “Bearcat.”
“I immediately made sure my MP5 was on safety,” Collins said. “I was under major stress myself after seeing the little girl. I took him to the Bearcat [SRT armored vehicle], and removed his MP5 and sidearm from him.”
Collins said that was standard operating procedure in an officer-involved shooting. He said tried to calm Weekley down.
“I knew I had to choose my words wisely,” he said. “We have been trained not to say, ‘Everything will be OK.’ So I just told him, ‘Tell the truth.’”
SRT Sgt. John “Bulldog” Widmer, who was the commanding officer at the scene, however, testified he told Weekley that everything WOULD be OK. He testified that the training SRT officers receive, referred to in other testimony as “640 hours,” is actually called “Policing Terrorist Suspects.” Widmer and Weekley are seen training officers in the “Detroit SWAT” video below, from the A & E website.
Much of his testimony conflicted with Collins’ statements. Widmer, a diminutive man like Weekley, appeared unemotional while on the stand. He testified he was with Collins at the door to the upper flat. He said he heard the stun grenade go off, then a gunshot “within three seconds.”
Joseph Weekley and attorney Steve Fishman,
“I heard a lot of screaming and dogs barking,” he said. “I believed the gunshot had been fired at a dog. Once the door [to the upper flat] was breached, I shouted up the stairway for anyone who was up there to come down with their hands up. A Black female came down, and I heard a lot of screaming, but no one else came down at the time. Then Officer Weekley tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey as I made entry, a woman grabbed my gun, it went off and I hit a kid.”
Widmer calmly testified he said, “What?”
“I was very nice to him on the front porch, and told him everything would be OK,” Widmer continued. “I asked him what happened with the kid. I didn’t see a child. I asked him where the kid was. He said it had already went to the hospital. I walked Officer Weekley down to the Bearcat, and made a notice on the radio channel that I needed additional supervisors to respond.”
Widmer began choking and coughing at that point on the stand.
“Officer Collins was down there at the Bearcat, I don’t recall for sure,” he said. “I didn’t take [Weekley’s] weapon from him at that point.”
Inspector Don Johnson said “You must be joking” about Mertilla Jones’ testimony that Weekley murdered her granddaughter,
He said after talking to DPD Lieutenant Don Johnson, who is in charge of several divisions including Homeland Security and SRT, he went back to Weekley.
“He was in the Bearcat,” he said. “He still had his MP5. Sgt. Collins took his MP5. I went down with him to homicide and stayed with him, but I don’t remember having any other conversation.”
Later, he reiterated his testimony to the grand jury that Weekley was “frantic,” and kept mumbling, repeating to himself, “Why did this happen? What will happen?”
He told Fishman that Weekley had operated as a “point man” (first on the scene) over 100 times. Fishman elicited testimony from him that point men “put their lives on the line,” and again that the situation was dangerous because the suspect “was alleged to have killed a 17-year-old with a handgun, and that he might have an AK47.”
From family Facebook photo.
Inspector Johnson also testified, indicating he had given specific orders to the team not to have the A & E camera crew present during the raid, and that even the homicide unit, which did not report to him, should have followed his orders as a superior officer. Neither side asked Widmer why those alleged orders were disobeyed.
Johnson said when he came to the scene, Weekley was in the Bearcat “throwing up, shaking and rocking back and forth.”
“There is an allegation that Weekley came up to the little girl, put a gun to her head, and shot her,” Fishman said on cross-exam, referring to Mertilla Jones testimony.
“You’ve got to be joking,” Johnson said.
Charles Jones stands next to the couch on which his little daughter died earlier that morning. Blood is seen under the cushion as splatter expert testified.
On June 12, A blood spatter expert testified that she found blood saturating a couch cushion on the south side of the couch where Aiyana’s head was, and underneath the cushion as well. She said there were also some “small blood spatter stains” on the exterior of a nearby door, which appeared to be from blood dispersed through the air.
Asked whether blood spatter can go forwards or backwards from the gun which caused it, she said, “There can be back-spatter where the blood comes back toward the gun, or forward spatter where the blood travels through the exit wound with the bullet and is deposited on surfaces in the direction of the bullet.”
She said elongated spatters she found meant they were “coming from a higher direction and hit on their way down.”
Judge, attorneys, jury and the media also attended a demonstration of the use of a stun grenade that afternoon.
(See video below.)
After closing statements Thursday, Judge Hathaway turned the case over to the jury. She told them the photographs from Mark Robinson’s Facebook page allegedly showing him, his brother Markewell, and uncle Vincent Ellis with guns could be used to discredit the witness’ testimony if they thought they were relevant.
Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway with her husband, Wayne Co. Deputy Sheriff Dewayne Hayes,
Robinson was never recalled to the stand by Fishman, as the attorney had threatened. Robinson did not testify during direct or cross about the presence of guns in the house, or the possession of guns by anyone in the photographs, and was not cross-examined about the photographs.
Hathaway told the jury to deliberate Friday, June 14, although she had instructed them at the beginning of the trial that they would not be meeting on Fridays. When they did not reach a verdict that day, she directed them to return June 17 and deliberate until 3:30 p.m.
“I saw the light leave out of her eyes, and blood gushed out of her mouth. I knew she was dead.”
Jones sobs, undergoes brutal cross-exam as trial begins second week
By Diane Bukowski
This photo of Aiyana Jones is from her cousin Mark Robinson’s Facebook page.
DETROIT – Testimony from Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ grandmother, Mertilla Maria Jones, who was sleeping with the child when Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley shot the 7-year-old to death May 16, 2010, kicked off the second week of his trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless use of a firearm resulting in death.
“I figured what all of them came to do was murder,” Jones said, referring to the paramilitary police raid team that invaded her house before shooting Aiyana in the head with an MP 5 submachine gun. “From the way they came in, and they knew there were children in the house, they came to kill, and they just killed a 7-year-old. I saw the officer come in, put the gun to Aiyana’s head, and just shoot.”
Mertilla Jones on stand during trial of Officer Joseph Weekley, who shot her 7-year-old grandchild Aiyana to death.
The trial is taking place in front of an all-white jury except for one Black male. The jury has never even been shown a photograph of the disarmingly pretty little girl.
“A few minutes before the police arrived, Charles had come and checked on us,” Jones said, referring to her son Charles Jones. “He pulled ‘Yana’s cover back over her. Then I heard a lot of commotion. The front window exploded, they hollered ‘police,’ and they kicked the door open, all at the same time. I was on the north end of the couch. Aiyana was on the south end with her head by the door.”
The living-room couch on which the two were sleeping was located directly under the front window that police hit with an incendiary stun grenade known as a “flash-bang.” “
Aiyana Always, from Mark Robinson’s Facebook page.
I rolled on the floor,” Jones continued. “Glass had landed on me. “I was lying on my stomach looking at the front door, and all these police came rushing in, three or four of them. The gun was placed right there at Aiyana’s head, and they pulled the trigger. I saw the light leave out of her eyes, and blood gushed out of her mouth. I knew she was dead.”
Jones, who said that she and Aiyana were “very close,” broke down sobbing uncontrollably. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway called a half-hour break. Jones was composed when she took the stand again.
“The police were in riot gear, all black,” she said. “I recognized it because I had watched ‘Detroit SWAT’ before.” A television crew from A & E, which sponsored Detroit SWAT, was filming the raid that day for its show “The First 48.”
“I had my eyes on Aiyana as well,” Jones said. “The gun went off and shot her in the head. Her eyes popped open and blood came out of her mouth. The TV in the room was on, so I could see. I started screaming and hollering and beating the floor, saying ‘Y’all fucked up, you killed my granddaughter.”
Aiyana Jones’ father Charles Jones is comforted by his aunt Joann Robinson on the porch of the Jones home the morning of Aiyana’s killing. Joann Robinson, who was in the home when Aiyana was shot, died a little over one year later. Photo by Diane Bukowski
Jones testified she had been about to warn the police that a child was on the couch, but did not have time to get the words out of her mouth. She said her sister Joann Robinson was sleeping on a black couch on the south side of the living room. Robinson died June 15, 2011. Jones has attributed her death to the grief and shock from the day Aiyana was killed.
“They started streaming into the house,” she continued. “I was steady screaming, ‘They killed Aiyana,’ but the cops weren’t paying me any attention. They didn’t detain me. They started going off into the bedroom on the side and the one behind, the one Charles and Dominika were sleeping in with their other three kids. They were moving very fast. They literally walked by me. I heard them in the rooms shouting, ‘Get on the floor, get on the floor.’”
She described how Aiyana’s father Charles exited his room.
“They made my son Charles crawl on his hands and knees like a dog,” she said. “He crossed the dining room and went into the living room. I got up on went to him and went to him, and he crawled to the couch.”
Aiyana’s cousin Mark Robinson in room where she was killed, the morning of her death. He testified he warned police there were children in the house.
Then, Jones said, “One of the officers cut on my lights and said, ‘Oh shit,’ grabbed her [Aiyana] and ran her out of the house. The other officers were still coming in. CJ started picking up bits of brains, and I told him, ‘That’s your baby’s brains and blood, Charles, they killed her, they blew her brains out.’ Then they told me to come outside, slammed me up against the house and handcuffed me, put me in the squad car and took me to homicide.”
She told Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran the police never said why they arrested her, or told her anything about Aiyana’s condition. She said she never grabbed Weekley’s gun, that physically she could not reach up and touch anyone. She said in earlier videotaped testimony shown to the jury that the police ‘would have shot the hell out of me’ if she had grabbed the gun.
Jones demonstrated how the officer she later came to know as Weekley was holding his MP5 submachine gun, cradled in one arm with the muzzle pointed at a downward angle, directly at the arm of the couch where Aiyana’s head lay as she slept. Earlier testimony showed Weekley was also carrying a large ballistic shield, although the MP5 is usually operated with two hands according to other testimony by officers.
Cop in real-life photo holds submachine gun in one hand and ballistic shield in the other, similar to Weekley’s stance, although Mertilla Jones testied Weekley held his gun pointed downward at a 45 degree angle.
Jones said she did not remember how long she was held and interrogated, only that “a lawyer had to come and get me.”
Defense attorney Steve Fishman then began a grueling cross-examination.
He asked her whether she had given testimony, starting with the police interrogation, and proceeding to the grand jury and civil case depositions. He said she had also given statements to the media.
Jones said, “I don’t talk to the media.”
Fishman said, “Oh, yes, then who is that over there?” pointing to this reporter sitting in in the audience. “I know Diane,” Jones said. “She’s my family’s friend.”
Fishman showed a brief clip of Jones’ interrogation by the police, and a police report in which she says “flying glass and gunshots” came through the window, attempting to impeach her earlier testimony.
Jones read the police report, and said she didn’t remember saying it that way. She testified she did not write the police report, and shouldn’t have signed it, but was in shock.
Killer cop Joseph Weekley as star on previous A and E DETROIT SWAT page.
Fishman asked her whether she had testified that she reached up to grab her granddaughter.
“At the time, I was lying on the floor,” she said. “I started to ask them, ‘please let me get my grandbaby,’ I tried to get it out, but before I could say it, she was shot. . . .I didn’t grab my grandbaby, as soon as he came in the door, he just put the gun to her head and shot.”
She confirmed earlier testimony she had given that Weekley murdered Aiyana. The prosecution has charged him only with involuntary manslaughter and painted a picture of a professional police team that would never deliberately kill anyone. Fishman said during opening statements that if Weekley had deliberately pulled the trigger on the gun, he should have been charged with first-degree murder.
Charles Jones, little sons, and family members before Aiyana’s funeral.
Other police officers have testified that they are trained in “trigger discipline,” to keep their finger off the trigger even if someone tries to take their weapon. Testimony has also been given that it takes 6 to 8 lbs. of pressure to pull the trigger on an MP5.
Without objection from Moran or the judge, Fishman then introduced more “facts not in evidence.”
He asked Jones if she hated the police for killing Aiyana, for arresting her son Charles and her daughter’s boy-friend Chauncey Owens in the killing of Je’Rean Blake, 17, and for arresting and successfully charging another of Jones’ sons, Norbert Jones, with first-degree murder. Norbert Jones was sentenced the month after Aiyana’s death. His mother has said he was unjustly convicted.
Mertilla Jones and grandchildren after 2012 raid.
“Certain police officers are harassing us to this day,” Jones said. She acknowledged knowing at the time of Aiyana’s death, from television reports and neighborhood talk, that Je’Rean Blake, 17, was killed on the May 14, 2010, but only peripherally.
Jones’ son Charles and Owens are stilling awaiting trial in that case. Owens has been held without bond since May 16, 2010, while Jones has been held without bond since November, 2011. Weekley has been free on personal bond to go home to Grosse Pointe, where he lives.
The Jones/Owens trial has been delayed while prosecutors await a ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court on Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Richard Skutt’s action barring “jail-house snitch” Jay Schlenkerman’s third-hand hearsay testimony against Jones.
“Jail-house snitch” Jay Schlenkerman at preliminary exam for Charles Jones.
Jones denied she had ever seen her sons Charles Jones and Vincent Ellis, and her grand-nephew Mark Robinson with guns. Police have testified during the trial that an Officer Carmen Diaz gave them information that Owens had an AK-47 and a handgun. Diaz has not testified, nor has her alleged informant. Neither Moran nor Judge Hathaway has objected to that hearsay testimony or constant, unsubstantiated characterizations of Owens as a murderer and Mertilla Jones’ home as a “crack-house.”
Jones said Owens did not live with her, but in the flat above her. She said Mark and Markewell Robinson had been staying with her for two months after their grandmother’s lights were shut off.
Fishman then introduced photographs which had been the topic of a lengthy discussion without the jury present at the beginning of the day. They are from Mark Robinson’s Facebook page, allegedly showing Robinson and Ellis with guns. Fishman said he intended to use them to impeach witnesses, including Mark Robinson, who testified earlier that he warned the raid team there were children in the house. Although he did not testify about his own possession or use of guns, Robinson was banned from the trial that day because Fishman said he might recall him to the stand.
Assistant Prosecutor Robert Moran in front, at preliminary exam for Charles Jones, who he is also prosecuting in an apparent conflict of interest. Photo by Diane Bukowski 1 26 12
Moran objected to introduction of the photographs at length during that session, saying there is no evidence of when the photos were taken, where they were taken, and by whom. He cited the Michigan Rule of Evidence he contended they violated and said he would preserve his objection for an appeal.
Hathaway nevertheless ruled to admit the photos, saying she would give instructions to the jury on whether they could be used to impeach witnesses.
Moran, who is also prosecuting Chauncey Owens and Charles Jones, did not object in detail in front of the jury, indicating only that his objection had already been noted. Hathaway gave no instructions to the jury when the photographs were introduced.
Fishman then handed six full-page glossy photographs to the jury to pass among themselves. All photographic evidence until that day had been displayed only on video screens. The photos were not shown to the audience or media. A glimpse of them as they were passed along to the jury indicated that most were blurry.
The jury never saw or handled any photographs of Aiyana, which are numerous on Robinson’s website. Of 230 photos on the site, almost all are loving photos of Aiyana and of the many other children in her extended family. The site is no longer up.
Group of Aiyana’s cousins and other relatives with T-Shirts demanding justice for her kiliing. Photo from Mark Robinson’s Facebook page.
Fishman asked Jones to identify the people in the photos. Keeping her composure, she identified Mark Robinson, Vincent Ellis, and Mark’s brother Markewell Robinson, but said the guns appeared to be rifles, BB guns, or toy guns. On re-direct, she told Moran that she did not take the photos and did not know when or where they were taken, and re-iterated her testimony that she had not seen the individuals in question with guns.
Defense Attorney Steve Fishman
Fishman asked her if she was aware that State Police found 14 shell casings in the backyard of the home, again “facts not in evidence,” at the current trial. Jones said she never went into the home’s backyard and that hearing gunshots in her neighborhood was common.
During later testimony from officers, Fishman asked each of them if any of them would go into a house and deliberately murder a child. “You must be joking,” one said. Fishman told this reporter after one day’s hearing that Jones should never have told her for a Voice of Detroit story that police murdered Aiyana. In fact, it has been this author’s experience during years of covering killings by police that family members frequently characterize the killings as “murder,” and in fact they are frequently deliberate.
Detroit police officer Eugene Brown bragged about killing (l to r) Rodrick Carringon, Lamar Grable, and Darrne Miller.
In the case of Lamar Grable, 20, shot 8 times to death by three-time killer cop Eugene Brown in 1996, his mother Arnetta Grable said she had spoken with Brown’s cousin. The cousin said Brown bragged about being able to kill people as a police officer and get away with it. Grable later won $6 million in a civil jury verdict in the case, but Brown has never been charged criminally and is still on the force.
Officers Barron Townsend and Steven Kopp chased Tommie Staples, Sr. into an alley in 2008 and shot him to death as he lay under their car, simply because he and his wife were advocates for youth in the neighborhood when they were stopped by police. The family won a $2.5 million lawsuit settlement in that case. Townsend and Laron York killed Dennis Crawford, a father of five, in 2005 during a domestic violence call.
Tommie Staples Sr. second from left, killed by Detroit cops in 2007 for monitoring police stops of neighborhood youth Family photo
His widow commented on Voice of Detroit, “For the record, I thank you for reminding others of these senseless crimes at the hands of our very own police force, ‘Detroit’s Finest.’ Dennis was shot 15 times; not 4 and he had no weapon at all. My son, who is now 20, has continued to suffer from the loss of his father through adulthood. As a mother, it’s very hard to keep my son from becoming a product of his environment. I fear that the judicial system does not analyze or own up to its contributions to the behavior patterns and emotional guilt of children who have lost parents (or loved ones) at the hands of those who have taken an oath to serve and protect.”
Michael Reizen Facebook header.
Police shot Anthony Scott, 25, to death in his car at a gas station on Detroit’s southwest side July 3, 2005, as he lifted his T-shirt to show them his surgical scars and beg them not to rough him up. Police claimed he had a knife. Others in the car denied he reached for it. His widow, Bobbi Jo Wethington, said during a press conference held by then State Rep. Hansen Clarke, “The police are about killing you.”
Another Facebook photo from killer cop Michael Reizen’s page.
Fishman recalled that case, saying his law firm handled the civil suit against the officers. Scott’s family, and Fishman, won a settlement of $1.2 million in that case, as follows from the Detroit News:
“Detroit, MI: (Dec-03-07) The family of Anthony Scott brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Detroit, alleging that Scott was shot to death by a police officer at a gas station in 2005. The family sued for gross negligence stating that on July 3, 2005, Scott and his two teenage cousins had left a birthday party to buy candles and cigarettes at a gas station at Michigan and Lonyo. A police car followed them to the gas station, and two officers then approached the vehicle with their weapons drawn. Another officer, Michael Reizin, who was working undercover nearby, also drew his gun after seeing the two other officers attempt to get the three men out of the vehicle. Scott was asked to step out of the vehicle and was shot twice because it appeared he was trying to reach for a weapon in his lap. Sources stated that Scott had an eight-inch hunting knife in his waistband when he was killed. As part of a settlement reached, the city council has tentatively awarded the family $1.2 million to resolve the wrongful death lawsuit.h”
Orr held meeting June 10 telling Detroiters to sacrifice, give up assets
Protest outside Orr’s meeting with the “public” June 10. Orr said he plans to lease Belle Isle to the state. BELLE ISLE BELONGS TO THE PEOPLE!
Orr holds PA 436 in one hand, Chapter 9 in the other as threats; both will devastate Detroit for generations to come
(Here is transportation information for Friday’s demonstration when EM Orr meets Detroit’s “creditors” Gather to car pool at 7:30 am at 5920 Second Ave., Detroit, MI 48202, at Antoinette, just above Wayne State University. If driving, take I-94 W to Metro Airport exit, left to Delta Departures. There is parking across from there at short-time parking lot up to 2 hours for $7.00.)
By Diane Bukowski
June 13, 2013
Detroit EM Kevyn Orr speaks at “public” meeting June 10.
DETROIT – Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and his racist, right-wing, “former” law firm Jones Day, the city’s “debt re-structuring consultant,” will meet with City of Detroit creditors June 14. One union official said Orr plans to “cram” an austerity agreement down the throats of the workers, instead of cramming debt reduction down the throats of banks and other financial institutions. The meeting is allegedly to prevent the filing of a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy, which would be the biggest in the country’s history.
Members of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition plan to be at the Westin Airport Hotel, where the meeting is to be held, at 9 a.m. to demand instead an immediate moratorium on Detroit’s debt to the banks, and to rally Detroiters to rise up en masse.
People’s protest outside Kevyn Orr’s phony public meeting June 10. Photo by Jennifer Teed.
“The banks are guilty of criminal actions,” Andrea Egypt, a Detroit city retiree, said earlier. “With their predatory lending, their instruments of fraud and usury, their seizure of homes, land and assets, they conspired to destabilize our finances and destroy the lives of our residents, creating urban blight and crime. They set up the conditions for the financial collapse of the cities across the country and the world.”
The group says it will demand the retention of city assets, restoration and improvement of services to city residents, good wages and benefits for city workers, and protection of the city’s pension funds.
Orr told the public at Wayne State University’s Law School June 10 that his first priority is to guarantee “public safety,” i.e. deal with crime. His second priority, he said, is to pay the City’s debts in full, as mandated by Emergency Manager Public Act 436, the successor to PA 4. He said he plans to lease Belle Isle to the state among other measures. His press representative Bill Nowling has talked about giving up the $6 billion Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), the city’s largest asset, as well.
Kriss Andrews, the city’s PA4 Project Management Director, (big fat white man with grey hair) is seen going into meeting June 10. Photo by Jennifer Teed.
“The City has at least $15.6 billion in unfunded debt,” Orr told an audience stacked with 43 seats reserved for VIP’s June 10. They included Financial Advisory Board members Kenneth Whipple and Glenda Price, City Council members Gary Brown, James Tate and Andre Spivey, former Council member Sheila Cockrel, and Bishop Edgar Vann, all of whom reacted to his talk in glowing tersm..
“The City’s revenue annually is $1 to 1.2 billion,” he said “Let’s assume you could dial in the fixed 80 percent of the budget . . . . and you wanted to address the $15.6 billion . . . nothing else, no fireworks, no potholes, nothing, it would take 68 years to pay off the debt, assuming you incur no further debt. That’s not feasible—the city would not exist as it is now. The alternative . . . outflows of demographics, lack of revenue, declining services is not a sustainable future.”
Protest outside Orr’s June 10 meeting: Hands off our pensions! Photo by Jennifer Teed.
He continued, “The only answer they [former city officials] had to deal with the problems was ‘let’s borrow a lot at a very high rate.’ Now the bill has come due and we have to address it. This path will require sacrifices from all interested parties. . . . I have a very powerful statute, and I have an even more powerful Chapter 9.”
A look at recent Chapter 9 bankruptcy filings and a look at PA 436, which still faces legal challenges, shows that both options will devastate Detroiters and their children for generations to come.
The U.S. Courts website says, “The purpose of Chapter 9 is to provide a financially-distressed municipality protection from its creditors while it develops and negotiates a plan for adjusting its debt. . . .there is no provision in the law for liquidation of the assets of the municipality and distribution of the proceeds to creditors. Such a liquidation or dissolution would undoubtedly violate the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.”
Public is held outside Orr’s meeting June 10. Photo by Jennifer Teed.
It goes on to say that during the pendency of a bankruptcy filing, payment of all the municipality’s general obligation debts is suspended, while the payment of special revenue debts, such as that DWSD owes, continues.
However, unlike state law, which provides protection for the pensions of public retirees, the U.S. government protects only the pensions of private workers. Currently, in the Stockton, Calfornia bankruptcy filing, the city’s retirees are being pitted against its banking and corporate debtors. (See article below.)
PA 436 proposes as an alternative a “neutral evaluation” process.
“The neutral evaluator shall inform the local government and all participants of the provisions of chapter 9 relative to other chapters of title 11 of the United States Code, 11 USC 101 to 1532. This instruction shall highlight the limited authority of United States bankruptcy judges in chapter 9, including, but not limited to, the restriction on federal bankruptcy judges’ authority to interfere with or force liquidation of a local government’s property and the lack of flexibility available to federal bankruptcy judges to reduce or cram down debt repayments and similar efforts not available to reorganize the operations of the local government that may be available to a corporate entity.”
Protest outside Orr’s meeting June 10. Photos by Jennifer Teed.
If the evaluation process fails, the Act says, then Chapter 9 bankruptcy is an alternative only if approved by the mayor of the municipality and the governor of the state. It provides that, unlike the situations in Stockton and Vallejo, California, where the city governments stood firm on the side of retirees, the governor can appoint a special manager to handle the bankruptcy.
Nowling has called retiree pensions and health costs “low-hanging” fruit. Under Orr, it is inevitable there will be no such protection for retirees, many of whom make only a few hundred dollars a month, and have already faced drastic increases in their health care deductibles and co-pays.
Atty. Jerry Goldberg calls for prosecution of criminal banks outside Orr’s meeting June 10, Photo by Jennifer Teed.
PA 436 also says, “An emergency manager shall . . . .make a determination as to whether possible criminal conduct contributed to the financial situation resulting in the local government’s receivership status. If the emergency manager determines that there is reason to believe that criminal conduct has occurred, the manager shall refer the matter to the attorney general and the local prosecuting attorney for investigation.”
Attorney Jerome Goldberg of Moratorium NOW! confronted Orr June 10, telling him under that statute he has a duty to investigate the criminal banks, which precipitated the financial crisis in Detroit.
“We don’t owe the banks anything,” he said. “You should be DEMANDING that they cancel the debt.”
Stephen Boyle of Free Detroit No Consent raised the fact that JPMorgan Chase has been forced to forego 70 percent of payments in the proposed Jefferson County, Alabama bankruptcy settlement, because their officials were found to have bribed county officials to make the loans. (VOD: At the same time, however, the proposed settlement provided for higher sewage rates to county residents.)
“Orr acknowledged the legitimacy of our view, saying that wrongdoing by creditors is a basis for discounting the debt,” Goldberg said. “We plan to rally the people to win our demand to cancel the debt. The issue is becoming crystal clear to Detroiters, and it’s time for us to rise up.”
DWSD workers struck at Wastewater Treatment Plant in Sept. 2012, trying to spark a general strike. They were sabotaged by AFSCME Council 25.
What is needed, say the activists, is a return to massive struggles in the streets, including general strikes and boycotts like the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the 1960’s, which eventually defeated Jim Crow laws.
Instead of an investigation, protesters outside the meeting demanded immediate action, chanting, “Too big to fail, not too big to jail.” The city’s banking and insurance creditors, as well Wall Street ratings agency Standard and Poor’s, have already been found guilty of massive fraud by numerous entities, in the U.S. and across the world.
The Moratorium NOW! Coalition has identified many of the city’s creditors through a Freedom of Information Act request (to view the debt documents they received, click on http://detroitdebtmoratorium.org/.)
Following is a just a sampling.
(L to r) Then Detroit CFO Sean Werdlow, SBS representative, Joe O’Keefe of Fitch Ratings, Stephen Murphy of Standard and Poor’s, and then Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams foist predatory $1.5 billion POC loan from UBS on city Jan. 31, 2005.
UBS AG—2005 $1.5 billion POC predatory loan to Detroit facilitated by Standard and Poor’s and Fitch Ratins, grown to $2.5 billion with penalties and swaps termed “wrong-way bets” by Bloomberg Businessweek.
In a clear conflict of interest, UBS’ loan partner SBS hired then Detroit CFO Sean Werdlow as a top executive shortly after the transaction; he remains there. Many of the city’s debts discovered by Moratorium NOW’s FOIA are now with SBS Financial. They are guaranteed by Merrill Lynch, a subsidiary of Bank of America.
**Client of JONES DAY LAW FIRM, EM Kevyn Orr’s “former” employer, functioning as Detroit’s debt re-structuring consultant, in constant meetings with Orr according to his May 17, 2013 report
UBS fined $1.5 billion by US Department of Justice for fraudulent practices.
Ongoing lawsuits and criminal actions against UBS and other banks for interest rate rigging in the LIBOR (London Interbank-Offered Rate) scandal. The City of Baltimore, other government entities, pension funds, and creditors, as well as other countries including those in the European Union have brought suit against UBS, as well as arresting several of its executives.
“Banks including UBS AG (UBS), Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM)have enabled about $3.7 billion of bond issues to cover deficits, pension shortfalls and debt payments since 2005, . .The debt sales cost Detroit $474 million, including underwriting expenses, bond-insurance premiums and fees for wrong-way bets on swaps” (Bloomberg Businessweek)
In a massive report, Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations found that UBS, Bank of American, JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo, New York Mellon, and Citibank, all creditors of Detroit, engaged in a criminal conspiracy: “Our investigation found a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest, and wrongdoing.”
UBS is a prominent sub-prime mortgage lender in Detroit, responsible also for numerous foreclosures.
Chase CEO Jamie Dimon
Involved in hundreds of millions in wrong-way bets on interest swap deals in Detroit (Bloomberg Businessweek—see above), as well foreclosures resulting from predatory lending here.
**Client of JONES DAY, which also represents National Public Finance Guarantee Corporation as a creditor in November 2011 chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy filing by Jefferson County, Alabama. Jones Day falsely claimed to the Detroit City Council that it represented the County in the case, according to Councilwoman Brenda Jones.
Holds $1.22 billion of sewer stock in Jefferson County, Alabama; had to forego 70 percent of payments in pending bankruptcy settlement due to bribery of county officials.
2009 SEC complaint: Chase agreed to forgive all termination fees Jefferson County owed on sewer swaps, about $647 miliion.
“Two Citgroup, Inc. executives are departing after federal prosecutors named them earlier this year in a mortgage-insurance fraud case that resulted in a $158.3 million settlement and an admission of wrongdoing by the bank.” (Bloomberg Businessweek) l
Citigroup Exec Sentenced to Eight Years for $23 Million Fraud (Newsmax – June 30, 2012)
Stockton city worker leaves city hall in Feb. 2013. His pension and those of thousands of public retirees is under attack by banking and corporate creditors during Stockton bankruptcy battle.
Bankruptcy Court Signals That Public Pension Obligations Could Be Impaired in Chapter 9 Bankruptcy Along With Other Creditors
Client Alert by Latham & Watkins Finance Department
April 5, 2013
U.S. Chief Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein, California
On April 1, 2013, Judge Christopher Klein, Chief Judge of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California, ruled that the City of Stockton, California, could proceed with its chapter 9 bankruptcy filing. Judge Klein’s decision affirmed Stockton’s status as the largest US city (population 300,000) to have successfully sought bankruptcy protection and proceed with bankruptcy.
Judge Klein’s comments on the record may also signal that the resolution of Stockton’s chapter 9 will require the impairment of the city’s pension obligations. Such a result would mark new territory in chapter 9 cases — although Congress provided the right to impair such pension obligations under chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code, no municipality to date has successfully taken this approach in a bankruptcy case.
Stockton must now develop a plan of adjustment to restructure its obligations. If Judge Klein’s comments empower Stockton to successfully compel a restructuring of pension obligations over the objection of the powerful California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), that precedent could open the floodgates for other cities across California and the United States to file bankruptcy and seek similar concessions.
The City of Stockton, 80 miles east of San Francisco, filed for chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in June, 2012.3 At the time of filing, Stockton reported that its financial crisis left it with no other options available. The city had $800 million in unfunded liabilities, a $26 million budget shortfall and a 22 percent unemployment rate, and more than half of its residents’ homes were worth less than their mortgages. Stockton’s initial plan to emerge from bankruptcy included cuts of $197.5 million in bond debt, as well as other concessions from creditors.
California retirees protest cuts.
CalPERS, the largest creditor, held claims of $147.5 million against Stockton, but Stockton’s initial plan provided for payment in full of CalPERS’ claims. The release of Stockton’s Restructuring Proposal in July, 2012 triggered a legal battle from bondholders and other creditors, who challenged the favorable treatment provided to CalPERS and argued that CalPERS should be treated on a pari passu basis with other creditors. The bondholders and other senior creditors (the Capital Markets Creditors) argued that Stockton was targeting the Capital Markets Creditors for unfair discriminatory treatment and had not filed its bankruptcy petition in good faith because the city sought concessions from Capital Markets Creditors without also seeking comparable concessions from CalPERS.
Judge Klein rejected the Capital Markets Creditors’ claims, including the claim that Stockton was required to negotiate for concessions with CalPERS. Judge Klein found sufficient evidence that Stockton had negotiated in good faith, including documentation of over 90 days of meetings and negotiations with creditors. He also ruled that the city had no requirement under the law to attempt to negotiate with CalPERS as a precondition to be eligible for chapter 9. Despite that ruling, Judge Klein’s comments on the record portend a potentially different outcome for CalPERS later in the process to confirm a plan of adjustment necessary for Stockton’s exit from chapter 9.
According to Judge Klein, “[i]t’s no secret [creditors] have CalPERS in the crosshairs of the dispute.”6 and that, absent impairment of CalPERS claims, “the City is going to have a difficult time confirming a plan over an objection and claim of unfair discrimination” by other creditors. Judge Klein’s remarks are significant because they suggest that CalPERS may no longer hold a privileged position as a relatively untouchable creditor. While retirees have recently had their rights impaired under bankruptcy, other municipal debtors — such as in the high-profile case involving the City of Vallejo — have been reluctant to impair pension obligations, often believing that such pension plans are necessary to incentivize and retain the remaining downsized workforce.
CITY OF VALLEJO, CA.
When the City of Vallejo, 70 miles west of Stockton, filed for bankruptcy in 2008, the issues of retiree benefits and pension obligations were also contested by unions and interest groups. Certain public sector unions challenged Vallejo’s authority to cancel retirees’ health coverage and collective bargaining agreements as being in violation of California’s labor laws. Bankruptcy Judge Michael S. McManus found that under bankruptcy law, the city could impair such rights, and US District Judge John A. Mendez affirmed. On appeal, Judge Mendez determined if a state permits its municipalities to opt into chapter 9 federal law in the first place the state cannot impose other state provisions that later conflict with the federal law.
According to Judge Mendez, “[i]f California had desired to restrict the ability of its municipalities to reject public employee contracts in light of state labor law, it could have done so as a pre-condition to seeking relief under Chapter 9.” In August, 2011, Vallejo confirmed its plan of adjustment, which paid unsecured creditors, including retirees, between 5 and 20 cents on the dollar. However, the City of Vallejo classified the pension obligations to CalPERS separately as unimpaired obligations unaffected by the Chapter 9 Plan of Adjustment.10
CITY OF SAN BERNADINO
The city of San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles, filed for chapter 9 bankruptcy in August, 2012, claiming a “fiscal emergency” and citing a $45 million deficit and more than $1 billion of debts.11 While previous bankrupt cities in California (e.g. Vallejo and Stockton) continued to pay their CalPERS pension obligations while in bankruptcy, San Bernardino suspended all payments to creditors at the outset of its chapter 9 case, including CalPERS, while it crafted its restructuring plan.
CalPERS objected, challenging San Bernardino’s eligibility for bankruptcy and seeking permission from the Bankruptcy Court to authorize CalPERS to collect a $7 million bill in state court. CalPERS argued that an exemption in bankruptcy law permits states to enforce their police power and that under California law, pension obligations to CalPERS are senior to other unsecured debts and must be paid first.Bondholders objected.The issue is still pending before the bankruptcy court and like Stockton, will bring a battle between CalPERS (the world’s sixth largest pension fund) and the major bondholders and creditors.
STATE PENSIONS V. FEDERAL BANKRUPTCY LAW
Judge Klein’s comments on the record signal that bankruptcy courts may push municipalities to level the playing field and not give preferential treatment to state pension institutions over bondholders and other senior creditors. As Judge Klein wrote in the previous Stockton proceedings, “even if the plaintiffs’ benefits are vested property interests, the shield of the Contracts Clause crumbles in the bankruptcy arena.”14
The willingness and ability for municipalities to restructure pension obligations would make the powerful set of rights under chapter 9 — including the ability to restructure collective bargaining agreements and retiree medical benefits —even more attractive. Currently, approximately 27 states permit some or all of their municipalities to file for bankruptcy, although some of these states impose certain restrictions. Yet despite the benefits available to municipalities, cities have been reluctant to seek chapter 9 protection, citing the cost of filing and political unwillingness as key factors.
However, if the bankruptcy judges deciding Stockton and San Bernardino’s fate decide that pension institutions like CalPERS must sit at the negotiating table with other general unsecured creditors, the precedent would be significant. Other cities across the country, desperate for solutions to their financial problems, may follow Stockton and San Bernardino into bankruptcy court.
National Security Agency surveillance programs came under more scrutiny Tuesday as the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit and a prominent senator and Internet giant Google called on the Obama administration to disclose more information.
NSA surveillance programs have been denounced world-wide.
In its lawsuit, the ACLU said an NSA program that harvests phone calls violates the rights of all Americans.
“The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy,” said Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s deputy legal director.
Meanwhile, Google sought permission to disclose more details about another contested NSA program, one that allows the government to collect online information from non-U.S. citizens.
And Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters she has asked Gen. Keith Alexander – the head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command – to declassify more information about its phone and Internet surveillance programs.
Edward Snowden, who continues to expose the NSA surveillanc program, Pres. Barack Obama, and headlines from Hong Kong newspapers, where Snowden has fled to avoid detention.
The goal is “so that we can talk about them, because I think they’re really helpful,” she said.
The Guardian and Washington Post disclosed these programs last week, based on leaks from a former NSA contract employee.
Edward Snowden, who is under investigation by the Justice Department for disclosure of classified information, fled to Hong Kong before announcing Sunday he was the source of the leaks. The consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton issued a statement Tuesday confirming that Snowden had been fired from his $122,000-a-year job “for violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy.”
President Obama and aides have defended the NSA phone and Internet intercept programs, saying they have helped prevent terrorist attacks and are subject to oversight by Congress and a special (and secret) court.
“They make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity,” Obama said, also citing “strict supervision by all three branches of government.”
“They do not involve listening to people’s phone calls, do not involve reading the e-mails of U.S. citizens or U.S. residents absent further action by a federal court that is entirely consistent with what we would do, for example, in a criminal investigation,” Obama said.
In its lawsuit – which deals just with the phone call program – the ACLU said that the NSA collection system violates rights of free speech and privacy. The ACLU noted it is a customer of Verizon Business Network Services, the recipient of a secret court order published by The Guardian last week. The order requires Verizon to turn over all phone call details, including who places them, who receives them and when and where they are made.
“The crux of the government’s justification for the program is the chilling logic that it can collect everyone’s data now and ask questions later,” said Alex Abdo, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Security Project.
Google, meanwhile, says it has been an unwitting participant in the NSA Internet program known as PRISM. The company said it had never heard of PRISM until last week.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller, Google said it can prove it does not hand the government data on a broad scale if it is allowed to publicly discuss requests made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
“Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made,” wrote David Drummond, Google’s chief legal officer. “Google has nothing to hide.”
Removal of Mike Duggan leaves Mayoral candidates Tom Barrow and Krystal Crittendon with greatly increased opportunities in their campaigns. Here, Barrow (l) and Crittendon (r), take part in a rally against the appointment of EM Kevyn Orr held at the Erma J. Henderson Auditorium. Barrow, a long-time CPA, spoke as a financial expert on the City’s economic condition, while Atty. Krystal Crittendon addressed the legal case against an EM. Both disparaged the Financial Review Team’s report on Detroit’s finances.
DETROIT (June 11) -In a stunning rebuke to the Detroit Election Commission and the Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Deputy Judge Lita Mashini Popke today ruled that Tom Barrow’s complaint seeking to remove mayoral candidate Mike Duggan was valid. Judge Popke also issued an immediate Mandamus Order requiring the Detroit Election Commission to remove Mike Duggan’s name from the August 6th Primary Ballot. She also awarded Barrow his fees and costs for the litigation.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Lita Popke
Mayoral candidate Tom Barrow told a stunned courtroom, “The People of Detroit witnessed the re-establishing of the rule of law in Detroit when this Judge upheld the plain language of the new Detroit City Charter. Contrary to those who would belittle us, Detroiters are wise,” said Barrow.
“Detroiters inserted a residency requirement for common sense reasons so as to prevent another outsider from moving in to become a false Messiah.” he explained. “Mr. Duggan arrogantly ignored our Charter and disobeyed our law and the court said no. The good people of Detroit applaud Judge Popke on making a courageous but accurate interpretation of the law.”
Barrow’s original complaint to the Detroit City Clerk on May 14, 2013, alleged that Mike Duggan did not meet the voter registration requirement that a candidate for elective office be a registered Detroit voter for one year “at the time of filing.” Duggan moved to Detroit from Livonia and registered to vote at his new Detroit address on April 16, 2012, but submitted his nominating petitions on April 2, 2013, fully two-weeks before his one year anniversary on April 16, 2013.
Mike Dugan celebrating takeover of DMC by for-profit Vanguard Health Care, 70 percent owned by a Wall Street hedge fund. Duggan ducked out of the DMC as Vanguard was laying off hundreds of workers there.
Barrow, 64, continued, “Now that we finally have a mayoral race for Detroiters with Detroit candidates, we can focus on solutions for the future and creating a new paradigm for our city. We wish Mr. Duggan good luck in his future endeavors and that he continues to make a contribution to his adopted home.”
However, the remaining and bigger issue is the arrogance and incompetence of the Detroit City Clerk, Janice Winfrey. This complaint was a routine matter which became political when, despite being in a clear “conflict herself,” she refused to recuse herself and completely ignored the clear language of our city Charter and placed Mike Duggan on the ballot. The rationale was a facetious legal analysis by an equally “conflicted” Corporation Counsel, [Edward Keelean] who himself voted for Duggan.
City Clerk Janice Winfrey discussed election rules in 2009 at forum on Prop S ($ half-billion school bond), as Theo Broughton of Hood Research listened disapprovingly.
“The City Clerk’s staff in 2009 was caught trying to fraudulently create a list of second ballot box seals which led to the Wayne County Board of Canvassers final ruling that some 59,961 ballots could not be recounted, including 100% of the 41,215 Absentee Ballots in a contest here only 9,501 would have seen the removal of Dave Bing” said Barrow.
“But as importantly, just recently we have uncovered more evidence of incompetence within the voter rolls right now. We have uncovered massive irregularities and discrepancies including 137,000 voters who have not voted in over 15 years, 14,000 voters who registered on January 1, 1900 making them some 133 years old, some 87,137 voters who registered to vote on October 10, 2000 as well as multiple dead voters and duplicate registrants, all making for a fraudulent and unreliable election.” he said.
“Ms. Winfrey has demonstrated a biased, political and mismanaged administration of the objective City’s elections operations and must resign immediately for the good of the city. Her resignation is especially warranted in the wake of this important ruling against her department and her poor judgment.”
Call ‘em Out conducted a sit-in at Janice Winfrey’s office March 22, 2010 to demand her resignation over election irregularities, including Tom Barrow’s revelation of the fact that nearly 60 percent of the ballots in the election were invalid, considered “unrecountable” by the Wayne County Elections Commission. The Commission nonetheless certified the election of Dave Bing, an admitted ally of Gov. Snyder. Bing’s “election” has now resulted in the appointment of EM Kevyn Orr.
Visit DetroitDebtMoratorium.org to view articles and documents on how the banks destroyed Detroit. Call today to have a speaker give a presentation to your church, union or community organization on “How the Banks Robbed Detroit.”
PROTEST HELD AT FIRST MEETING THURS. JUNE 6; ORR DIDN’T SHOW
Cynthis Johnson cries out, Detroit is under attack! outside towers of Greater Grace Temple during June 6 protest against EM Orr and banks.
PROTESTERS TELL ORR: MAKE THE BANKS, NOT THE PEOPLE PAY!
By Diane Bukowski
May 9, 2013
Baxter Jones, center, a former DPS worker who is losing his home, spoke out against the greed of the banks.
DETROIT – Chants of “Orr is the tool of the bankers’ rule” and “Too big to fail, they’re not too big to jail,” rang out outside Greater Grace Temple in northwest Detroit as protesters turned out by the dozens May 6. Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, however, failed to show as scheduled, opting instead to hold his required public meeting in the tiny auditorium of Wayne State University’s Law School June 10.
Baxter Jones showed up in his wheelchair, holding a sign calling on Detroit to cancel its debt payments to resolve the city’s crisis. Protesters said that must be done instead of preying on city pensions, public assets, jobs and services.
Protesters lined the streets as passersby honked their horns.
“Emergency Manager Robert Bobb fired me from my job at the Detroit Public Schools and denied me my pension in 2010,” Jones said. Jones said DPS hired him in 1983. He is now living on paltry federal SSI benefits of about $700 a month and is in poor health.
“Now I’m facing eviction by Freddie Mae,” he said. “They’re holding up the judgment until Aug. 4 because I have a bankruptcy stay, but they’ve been trying to get me out since 2002. It’s not fair that they can build up the banks and give them all the money, then turn around and show me no mercy. It’s nothing but greed going on, and it’s not right.”
Cynthia Johnson took the bullhorn to declare repeatedly, “Detroit is under attack.”
Atty. Jerry Goldberg of Moratorium NOW! addresses rally.
“It’s not by mistake that we have all these properties foreclosed on and razed,” she said. “The banks don’t want your property, they want our land. Do not allow the banks, Kevyn Orr, Rick Snyder and the other big business agents to take your property. Do not walk away from your properties. Do not allow your children watch you give up on the city of Detroit. Don’t give up, stand up!”
Apostle Linda said, “Kevyn Orr is another finger on the hand of the banks and Rick Snyder. If he cared about the people, he wouldn’t have bailed out like he did today. He came to our house, now we want to go to his.”
Cecily McClellan on bullhorn addresses Orr’s takeover of the city’s HUD funds under towers of Greater Grace.
Cecily McClellan, a laid-off City of Detroit worker who is vice-president of the Association of Professional and Technical Employees (APTE), announced that Orr just issued Executive Order #7, which seizes all funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and puts it under his control.
The order says, “The City’s Housing and Urban Development grant and guarantee programs, including but not limited to, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME, and Neighborhood Stabilization (NSP) . . . .and related actions . . . .will not be valid or approved by the Emergency Manager or his designee in writing.” (Click on Kevyn Orr Executive Order 7 to read order.)
McClellan said, “This will include Section 8 and money for entrepreneurs to build low-income housing. This has nothing to do with the city’s debt. Instead, they’re going to use federal funds to tear down properties. Kevyn Orr is nothing but a vampire.”
She added, “We’ve got to let the churches now that they’re not going to be allowed in our communities if they allow Orr the dictator to come into them. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would never ever have allowed this.”
Protest against Chase in Birmingham Alabama.
Attorney Jerry Goldberg of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, which called the protest, said Orr has the authority under the new Emergency Manager law to take criminal action against banks which have defrauded the city.
“In the Jefferson County, Alabama bankruptcy, of its debt payments because it was involved in criminal activity,” Goldberg said. “Orr must go after the banks, not the people. We know he’s not going to do it, so we the people must do it. Make the banks pay!’
Abiyomi Azikiwe, also of Moratorium NOW!, said “The banks destroyed the City of Detroit by foreclosing over 150,000 families in seven years. They wreaked havoc and destroyed our tax base and our neighborhoods. We must have the complete elimination of fraudulent bank deals with the City. We don’t have decent buses, street lights and streets. Our schools are closed. The future holds nothing but more austerity and destruction. We built this city. We must demand no more payments to the banks.”
Take-down team did not arrest target of raid when he left house earlier
Testimony raises questions about Blake killing
June 8, 2013
By Diane Bukowski
Aiyana Jones and her three little brothers were sleeping at their grandmother’s home when police raided, killing her with a shot to the head from an MP5 machine gun.
DETROIT – Testimony continued June 5 and 6 in the trial of Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley, charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless use of a firearm resulting in the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, in 2010. Once again, both Prosecutor Robert Moran and Weekley’s defense attorney Steve Fishman ignored the central issue in the case—the military use of police against poor Black Detroiters, which was bound eventually to result in such a tragedy.
At one point, Special Response Team (SRT) Sgt. Tim “Malibu” Dollinger called the post-midnight raid on the Jones home, where four little children were sleeping, a “mission.” The term recalled civilian killings by U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Aiyana’s cousins Mark Robinson and Vincent Ellis and her aunt LaKrystal Sanders took the stand to describe the horrific raid. Her grandmother Mertilla Jones, who was sleeping on the couch with Aiyana when Weekley shot the child through the head using an MP5 submachine gun, is set to testify Mon. June 10.
Expert depiction of Aiyana’s killing by Weekley, as presented by family’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger.
It is likely that Fishman will grill her about his primary defense of Weekley, that she bumped into his gun or otherwise interfered with him. Most raid team members so far have testified that when they entered the home, Mertilla Jones was on the far end of the couch, a significant distance away from Weekley.
On June 5, Robinson, 22, said he had gone outside to get his two puppies back into their pen after Ellis woke him shortly after midnight June 16, 2010.
“I turned around and I see like a big metal tank truck with lights all over it, and officers get out dressed in black,” Robinson said. “They come up to me and had guns in my face, made me get on the ground, and put a big foot in my back. Next thing I see cops running up to the house. I was yelling to them, ‘There’s kids in the house.’ They ignored me. They continued to bum rush the house. They threw the flash bang through the window and it went off with a boom. Then I heard a sound like a gunshot.”
Aiyana’s family members during Fieger press conference May 18, 2010. L to r, Mark Robinson, Dominika Stanley, Charles Jones, Fieger, Mertilla Jones and LaKrystal Sanders. Photo by Diane Bukowski
His voice trembling, Robinson continued, “At that moment, I hear my auntie screaming, ‘You killed my baby, you killed Aiyana.’ Then one cop ran out of the house with Aiyana over his arm, carrying her like a rag, with her head slumped one way and her feet the other way.”
SRT raid team member Kata Ante Taylor.
Artell Dickerson, killed by Taylor.
He said afterwards he saw the police bring his aunt, Mertilla Jones, out of the house in handcuffs and take her away in in a police car.
The officer who carried the child out, according to police testimony, was Kata’Ante Taylor. He executed 18-year-old Artrell Dickerson with two gunshots to the back as he lay on the ground in 2008, according to eyewitnesses. Dickerson’s family won a $1.5 million settlement against the City of Detroit in that case.
On cross-exam, Fishman grilled Robinson on his testimony that he heard the gunshot come from the porch. Robinson clarified, “It came from on the porch in the doorway.”
Fishman asked whether Robinson knew and told family members that Chauncey Owens, who lived in the upstairs flat with LaKrystal Sanders, was involved in the killing of Je’Rean Blake, 17, on May 14, 2010, the motive for the raid.
Robinson said he suspected Owens or Owens’ brother Sherron Heard, known as “Chinaman,” might have been involved because they had a moped, cited in TV reports as present at the scene of the Motor City Marketplace liquor store where Blake died.
But, he said, he did not know if that was the case and never told others in the family of his thoughts. He said the killing did not fit Owens’ personality.
“It was not my place to ask him,” he said. He testified he had never seen Owens with a gun. Earlier, police testified that no weapons were found in the house after Aiyana was killed.
Prosecutor Robert Moran (seated) at preliminary exam of Aiyana’s father Charles Jones as Jones’ attorney Leon Weiss speaks, Jan. 26, 2012. Photo by Diane Bukowski
Moran is also prosecuting Owens and Aiyana’s father Charles Jones in the Blake case in what many have called a conflict of interest. Both he and Fishman elicited testimony from police officers that they “heard” Owens had a handgun and an AK 47. However, the officers never specified who gave them the information or whether they had seen the weapons.
Neither Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway, who is hearing the case, nor the prosecution has objected to such presentation of “facts not in evidence,” although Hathaway at one point objected to “hearsay” but did not rule it out.
Police on the stand and in an A & E videotape have said but not substantiated that Lillibridge, the street where the Jones family lived, was a hot-bed of drug dealing, and that Owens dealt drugs. They appear to be playing to the sentiments of the jury, which is all-white except for one Black member.
Owens has no drug-related convictions on his record.
Toys in front yard of Aiyana’s home in photo taken May 16, 2010 are the same ones seen in evidence photo shown to police and jury in Weekley trial. Photo by Diane Bukowski.
Likewise, Judge Hathaway has not challenged Moran and Fishman’s continued characterization of Owens as a “murderer,” although he has not yet been tried in Blake’s death, and has no other murder-related convictions on his record.
No arrest warrant was issued for Owens until May 19, 2010, three days after the raid, according to court records. Instead, officers testified, they obtained a “search warrant” for the two-family flat where the Jones family lived downstairs, running it to 36th District Court Magistrate Sidney Barthwell’s home for a signature just prior to the raid.
Barthwell arraigned Maryanne Godboldo nearly a year after Aiyana’s death, after she stood off a similar SRT raid by police who were trying to take her daughter Ariana to medicate her with a dangerous drug in March, 2011. He ordered Godboldo held on a half-million dollar bond, until an outpouring of national support forced her release on personal bond. Later, 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles dismissed all charges against Godboldo.
An SRT officer testified he led a trio of officers in a “take-down team,” which was supposed to arrest Owens if he left the house. He said they were parked on Montclair near Mack, three streets west of Lillibridge, when surveillance officers Raymond Trammell radioed he saw Owens leave the home twice, three hours before the raid, and walk with another man north to the end of the block at E. Canfield, then back to the house. He said his team did not arrest him during what amounted to two four-minute walks because he had not crossed E. Canfield and they could not “cut him off.”
Many community members have contended the SRT team wanted to put on a show with their military gear for the A & E TV cameras, which had been following the investigation all day, by raiding the house instead.
Sgt. Timothy Dollinger headed raid team.
After ignoring them during the first days of testimony, Moran finally pointed out the numerous brightly-colored toys in the family’s front yard, which are clearly visible in an evidence technician’s photo of the home, shown repeatedly to officers and the jury. All the officers denied seeing the toys during extensive surveillance before the raid.
SRT Sergeant Tim “Malibu” Dollinger, who along with Weekley, nicknamed “Brain,” is featured as a star on A & E’s “Detroit SWAT” website, was in charge of the raid team.
After testifying extensively about the line-up of the SRT raid team as it entered the house, and the gear they wore, Dollinger said he was the third or fourth officer inside the home, and immediately saw an entry bullet wound in Aiyana’s head.
He said he directed Officer Taylor to take her out, and continued to search the home on all three levels.
He testified that he drove by the house beforehand with Weekley and another SRT officer. He denied seeing the toys, and said knowing that children were present would not have changed the team’s plan.
“Is the fact there are children in the house, does that mean a murder suspect can sit around with children for the next 10 years and the police will never come get them?” Fishman asked.
“If someone says, ‘Hey be careful there’s kids in there,’ I’m not going to stop and not execute the search warrant,” Dollinger said. “Not that you wouldn’t be careful, it’s important to know so no one gets hurt. You’re already giving them a lot of trauma because there’s a lot going on.”
He testified that he and Weekley had participated in at least 250 search warrant raids and about 50 “barricaded gunman” raids. He said SRT officers get a “patch” for their uniforms for each raid.
Rally for Justice for Aiyana held March 8, 2013. Aunt LaKrystal Sanders is in center.
Dollinger said he was born and raised in Detroit by his grandparents, and that he and his grandfather were both victims of robberies. He said that motivated him to become a policeman. Dollinger currently lives in New Baltimore, Michigan, according to an on-line records search.
Aiyana’s aunt LaKrystal Sanders, who lived with Chauncey Owens for 17 years at various residences, also testified June 6. Sanders said she and Owens heard the loud noises and came down from the upper flat as police were breaking down their door. Police arrested Owens, who was in his boxer shorts, and took him into the lower flat, she said.
That action further contaminated what officers earlier testified had become a homicide scene, which needed to be investigated by the unit that deals with officer-related shootings. Owens’ court records in the case show that officers forced him to sit on the bloody couch where Aiyana had been shot, prior to taking him to jail and then making her mother, father and grandmother sit there as well, “for hours.”
“I heard my mother screaming, ‘They killed Aiyana,’ Sanders said. “She was screaming my name. . . .I asked a sergeant did they let my brother go to hospital. I heard on the police radio different things, including that she was doing all right, or going into surgery, or had an asthma attack, or got burned. . . After a few hours, someone told me ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’”
Her testimony cast doubt on the prosecution’s case against Owens.
Fishman quoted testimony she gave to a grand jury regarding the day Blake was killed.
“You told the grand jury, all of you were sitting outside on the front porch that day and saw Chinaman [nickname for Owens’ brother] fly by. He told you I gotta get rid of this bike and gun. You said Shannon, Lebron, all the kids, you, Charles Jones, Dominique Simpson, McKenzie Robinson, were there.”
Mertilla Jones with her grandchildren after second police raid on her home in 2012, late the night of a hearing in Weekley’s case.
Sanders said “Chinaman” had only relayed that information to his brother.
Earlier, Fishman blamed Aiyana’s mother for letting her children stay in the same house with Owens after allegedly hearing of his involvement in the Blake killing. However, the transcript Fishman read clarified that it was not Dominika Stanley, but Dominique Simpson, the mother of Jones’ other children, allegedly on the porch. Simpson and her children were not in the house during the raid.
Aiyana’s cousin Vincent Ellis also testified June 6. He said he was in a front befroom when he heard commotion and noise, and started to go into the front room, but fell back into his room when he saw the flash of the grenade.
He said he heard another loud noise.
“The next thing I knew I was getting handcuffed,” Ellis said. “They asked where the guns are at.” He said the officers left him in the room. Fishman quizzed him about whether the officers said “guns” or “gun,” saying he told the grand jury they asked him, “Where’s the gun at?”
Fishman also asked about Ellis’ testimony to the grand jury that Mertilla Jones told him she was on the couch when Aiyana was shot.
Aiyana would have been 10 last year. Photo from family’s Facebook page.
Fishman had made an issue of that several times, since Jones on has said she fell to the floor when the grenade, which was found under the cushions of the couch by the evidence unit, went off.
He likely will grill her June 10 on her differing testimony. Jones was held for several days by police after watching her grandchild shot to death in front of her eyes, has been in poor health, and is likely still suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Members of Aiyana’s large extended family from both her mother’s and father’s side have attended the trial every day and expressed anger about evident attempts to blame the child’s death on people in the family.
“We want justice and we are going to get justice, and we want peace,” Dominika Stanley’s father Jimmie Stanley said during a break. “Aiyana was our loved one, and she has a very large family. She was my heart. I have her photos all over my house. When she would see me, even if she was with her grandma, she would come running to me.”
Typical SWAT team.
MORE OBSERVERS ASKING IF DETROIT’S ‘PARAMILITARY’ POLICE TACTICS GO TOO FAR
The military-style methods promoted by Detroit’s police chief have come under fire since officers shot and killed a small girl last month during a botched house raid that ignited public outrage. Chief Warren Evans took over the police department there last year and embarked on an aggressive campaign to win back the city from its stubbornly high violent-crime rate by among other things dispatching a so-called Special Response Team for everyday law enforcement activities. Continue reading →
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