Jerry T. Bell, Jr., 43, files to run for a seat on the Warren City Council in the 2019 elections, at the City Clerk’s office, Sept. 20, 2017.

UPDATE Sept 20, 2017:  Jerry T. Bell, Jr. filed officially to run for the Warren City Council elections in 2019 today, as an at-large candidate for the time being. City Code language gives him the option of withdrawing as an at-large candidate and filing as a District candidate prior to the Aug. 2019 primary.

Bell told VOD that if action has not been taken to remedy what he calls the racist re-districting of the city, through either city government action or a resolution with the U.S. Department of Justice, he plans to move to District 5, south of the “Mason-Dixon” line (the 1-696 expressway) which divides wealthier largely white north Warren from poorer south Warren, where the majority of the city’s Black and other minority residents live.

Bell said, “I am determined not to run from this challenge. My fellow African-American and poor residents in Warren deserve equal representation on the City Council, and in their government as a whole.”

Warren City Council members, all white, live in north Warren, while majority of 24% Black, ethnic population lives in south Warren

Jerry T. Bell, Jr., supporters say this resulted from gerrymandering after 2010 Charter re-districting provisions based on 2000 Census

Gerrymandering also profiting contractors in bed with Council members

“Bell holds key to the  future political landscape in Warren”–supporter

By Diane Bukowski

September 16, 2017

Jerry T. Bell, Jr. (Facebook)

Warren, MI – “Jerry Bell holds the key to the future political landscape in the city of Warren,” a supporter told VOD.

Bell has filed a federal Voting Rights Act, Sec. 2 complaint against the city with the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging that it has deliberately disenfranchised voters of color in city elections.

He told VOD that Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger has now come on board to call for their own investigation as well.

Warren is the third largest city in Michigan, with a population of 135,125, according to 2016 U.S. Census estimates. Warren’s Mayor Jerry Fouts and its City Council members, all white, live in the majority white districts in north Warren, and are in the pockets of city contractors who profit from hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public taxes, Bell contends.

But at least 18 percent of its residents are Black and six percent belong to other ethnic minorities according to the U.S. Census of 2010.  Most of them live in City Council districts in south Warren. One city official estimates that the percentage of Blacks living in Warren now is likely closer to 30 percent.

“The way they drew up the districts is similar to what’s going on in Eastpointe, and it really rubs me the wrong way,” Bell said prior to confronting City Council members at their regular meeting Sept. 12. “It’s a total violation of the civil rights of the people of Warren. You have all seven city council members that live north of I-696, which leaves out residents south of I-696—they have no representation. I’m not going to let them do this to the citizens of Warren. I plan to run for city council and I will be fighting this matter in office. I’m not going to run the other way.”

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts with City Clerk Paul Wojno.

The City of Eastpointe, which has a 30 percent African-American population, is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for its practices effectively barring Blacks from representation in city government.

Bell called the re-districting a “crime” because the re-districting commissioners used the 2000 census instead of the 2010 census to determine voting rights. 2000 U.S. Census figures showed only 2.67 percent Black residents, with 6.04 percent from other ethnic minorities.

However, the 2010 U.S. Census showed the city’s African-American population had risen to 13.52 percent, with 8.1 percent members of other ethnic minorities. The city’s total population had decreased by 2.9 percent, while its population of Blacks increased 390.21 percent, and the population of other ethnic minorities increased by 140.6 percent. City officials estimate that the Black population has risen substantially more since 2010.

The redistricting commission consisted of City Clerk Paul Wojno, City Attorney James Biernat Sr., City Assessor Marcia Smith, Joan Flynn and Hilary Kutella, both appointed by Mayor Jim Fouts.

Bell cites 2011 campaign finance records which show commissioner Flynn contributed to the Friends of Robert Boccomino. Records also show Commissioner and City Assessor Smith contributed to the Committee to elect Jim Fouts, and Commissioner/City Clerk Wojno contributed to the campaigns of Mayor Fouts, and incumbent Councilmen Boccomino and Keith Sadowski, among others.

Bell has drawn up various graphics he says show the blatant gerrymandering which took place in Warren in 2010. Below, a map illustrates the city council districts, and shows the residences of City Council members and their districts.


Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, who recently was the focus of a scandal arising from alleged tapes of him making racist remarks,  also lives north of I-696 as well, at 28170 Louise Drive, Warren, MI 48092. Fouts has discouraged Bell from raising his current complaint with the Justice Department, and earlier from challenging the Warren City Code’s ban on anyone with a felony record running for office in the city.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts

Fouts and Council members had discovered a minor 1999 alleged felony on Bell’s record, a B&E involving the theft of “over $5.00.” The Warren City Code currently bars anyone with a felony record from running for public office.

So he raised EEOC requirements banning the use of criminal records in employment without first considering the applicant’s other qualifications. He noted state law indicates that a felony record does not prevent an individual from running for state or local office unless the felony occurred while IN public office.

Therefore, he requested the City Council remove that felony bar from the City Code, which it could have done with a simple vote, since it is not a part of the City’s actual charter and likely violates state law. Despite Bell’s request, the Council refused.

Statistics show that Blacks are disproportionately represented in the ranks of ex-felons, at least 31 percent as compared to 12.3 percent in the general population. Likewise, all people of color are disproportionately represented in the ranks of incarcerated individuals, 42 percent. 

Bell said he himself plans to run for the City Council in the next elections in 2019, in District 5, located in south Warren. Council member Robert Boccomino currently represents residents in that district. Bell contends that the boundaries of District 5 were gerrymandered in 2010 to include Boccomino’s address, which is north of I-696.

Most of Warren’s residents of color live in zip codes 48091 and 48089. south of I-696.

Other graphics he has drawn up show that the majority of Warren’s Blacks and others of color live in zip codes 48091 and 48089, south of I-696.

Residents in those zip codes additionally are much poorer than the residents of north Warren. Many of Bell’s supporters believe that wealthier whites in north Warren add to their income by  lining their pockets with bribes and campaign contributions from the city’s public contractors.

Jerry Bell, Jr. himself grew up in a poor neighborhood on the east side of Detroit, from where his mother took him to watch Gold Cup hydroplane races on the Detroit River. That instilled a lifelong dream of his, to become a champion hydroplane racer. But, although he won several awards early in his racing career, he has since fought what he identifies as racism in the ranks of the organizations that control the river races. He is one of very few Black hydroplane racers across the U.S. and has been barred from entering numerous competitions.

He now supports himself as a taxicab driver, so he says he certainly identifies with the poor residents of Warren and will fight for them.

Poverty rate in Warren neighborhoods: the ‘Mason-Dixon’ line

Bell alleges that political greed and corruption, particularly with regard to City contracts, influenced the 2010 Charter Amendment vote on the composition of the Warren City Council, and subsequent gerrymandering of districts in Warren.

Macomb County campaign finance records show that Warren City Council members receive substantial contributions from city contractors who profit from public tax dollars. Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger publishes one of the best campaign finance sites this reporter has seen, singling out corporate donations in simple charts. See her site at http://macomb.mi.campaignfinance.us/.

Robert Boccomino, Council secretary, speaks at Sept. 12 meeting.

Warren City Council Secretary Robert Boccomino, for example, has received contributions from the Rizzo Environmental Services Political Action Committee (PAC), among numerous other businesses.

Rizzo is currently under federal investigation into an alleged bribery scheme involving Rizzo representatives and elected officials from other communities surrounding Warren who helped steer profitable waste-hauling contracts.

Rizzo, now known as GFL (Green for Life) has had a contract with the City of Warren since 2001 to operate its waste transfer station, with some glitches along the way. As of July, according to the Macomb Daily, the Warren City Council was reconsidering re-negotiating the terms of the contract.

“This has nothing to do with the scandal,” said Robert Boccomino, council secretary, as quoted in the Macomb Daily. “All we’re doing is going over the costs of the contract. There may be some wiggle room to lower our costs.”

Boccomino has also received contributions from the executives of WMI (Waste Management, Inc.) PAC, Mattioli Cement, the Andiamo Restaurant Group, and the Jack Doheny Companies, among others.

Keith Sadowski at Warren Council meeting Sept. 12, 2017.

District 2 Council member Keith Sadowski’s campaign finance records are loaded with payoffs from city contractor execs, many of them in the construction field.

They include once again Rizzo Environmental Services,  the Boutrous Companies, Nth Consultants, MFCI (Michigan Financial Consultants, Inc.), Boulder Construction Co., Mattioli Cement, Bison Plumbing, WICO Metal Products, Metco Services, Inc., the Hylant Group, Zuniga Cement, Michael Chirco of MJC Homes, Comerica Bank, Boulder Construction, GWE Engineers, Zuniga Cement, and the list goes on and on.

Bell says it is definitely time for a change in Warren, Michigan, as well as other suburbs of Detroit whose Black and ethnic populations are rapidly growing.




Read Jerry T. Bell, Jr.’s complaint to the USDOJ at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Districts_Voting-Rights-Act_Section-2_Violation.pdf


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Hundreds march on Little Caesar’s Arena to protest Kid Rock opener

Thousands more, nearly all white, stream in to concert

White supremacists with Confederate flag, other paraphernalia, protected by police, march marshals

Detroiters  pay for billionaires to play 

By Diane Bukowski 

September 16, 2017 

Kid Rock gets award from Detroit NAACP Pres. Wendell Anthony at 2011 Freedom Fund dinner. Anthony hosted Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s announcement of his run for re-election this year. Duggan has refused to speak out to denounce Kid Rock.

DETROIT—Chanting “No Justice, No Pizza!” and “No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA,” hundreds marched on the Kid Rock concert which formally opened Little Caesar’s Arena in downtown Detroit Sept. 12. Kid Rock still uses the hated symbol of slavery, the Confederate flag, in his videos and previously onstage. 

He has engaged in a series of racist rants against the organizers of the march, the National Action Network, and others. He called civil rights activist Sam Riddle of NAN a “piece of shit criminal” and “prime example of a lot that has been wrong with Detroit. He continues to blast former NFL San Francisco 49er’s player Colin Kaepernick for refusing to stand during the national anthem at pro football games as a protest against racism.

Detroit taxpayers have underwritten two-thirds of the costs of the arena, $536 million for the Red Wings, from tax increments including school, library, city, county and state taxes. Another $20 million in brownfield tax breaks and $34.5 million in taxpayer-backed Downtown Development Authority bonds will pay for modifications to the Arena to accommodate the Pistons and NBA players. 

The City Council earlier voted 7-2 to approve the additional $54.5 million in tax costs, with only Council President Brenda Jones and Councilwoman voting no.

Ground was broken for the arena while Detroit was still undergoing bankruptcy proceedings, which have bankrupted not the banks, but city residents and retirees. The city’s debt has skyrocketed 300 percent since the bankruptcy.

DAREA Pres. William Davis at left next to Mary Waters

“We do not like the fact of all of this corporate welfare, we do not like the fact that while our tax dollars that should be going for our schools, our colleges, our libraries, not only is Kid Rock the opening act but they give him a restaurant,” William Davis, President of the Detroit Active and Retired City Employees Association (DAREA), said during the opening rally. “Why is there not one single Black business in the new arena?”

Former State Rep. Rashida Tlaib called for a boycott of Little Caesar’s Pizza, owned by the Illitch family, which named the new arena. That gave rise to the chant of “No Justice, No Pizza.”

Other speakers referred to ongoing protests across the U.S. against the use of the Confederate flag, and the campaign to tear down monuments to Civil War Confederate generals, as racial tensions in the country rise.

Heavily guarded by Detroit police on horseback and foot, the marchers proceeded from Grand Circus Park past I-75 to the Little Caesar’s complex, where they rounded the median to march back down Woodward directly in front of the complex. Many marchers said they felt the police were here to protect them, but it was questionable whether they were instead protecting white supremacists and Kid Rock fans from the marchers.

It became clear that the march was meticulously planned to stay within certain boundaries and time limits, since the majority of Kid Rock fans had not arrived to flood the arena until after it passed back to Grand Circus Park. 

 Several of Kid Rock’s supporters displayed a large Confederate flag as marchers passed the Arena. Police and march marshals told protesters to “move along” although it was clear some wanted to take direct action against the hated symbol of slavery.

Neither Mayor Duggan, nor with many of the City’s Black mis-leaders, including Rev. Anthony, Sheriff Benny Napoleon, Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree, and others who celebrated  Duggan’s announcement of his re-election bid, have condemned Kid Rock’s racism, but instead are pandering to him in the quest for funds.

Protester with sign denouncing Kid Rock’s affiliations.

More than that, they are evidently bought and paid for by Dan Gilbert and the Illitches, to whom they are selling the largest Black majority city in the country for pennies on the dollar.

Duggan just announced Sept. 13 that he was appointing multi-billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert, whose Bedrock Real Estate already owns most of downtown Detroit, to lead a committee to make a bid for online retail giant Amazon to bring its second North American headquarters to Detroit, along with 50,000 jobs.

Gilbert’s company Quicken Loans is being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for fraudulent and predatory mortgage lending practices, that have resulted in hundreds of foreclosures targeting Black-owned homes in the city of Detroit, part of the corporate drive to move Black Detroiters out of their city.

They clearly support moving in the people that flooded into Kid Rock’s opening concert at Little Caesar’s Arena. Like the other suburbanites who have been taking over Campus Martius and other downtown, Cass Corridor (Midtown) and Corktown venues, these folks have shown no respect for Black Detroiters and their proud history here. It is Black Detroiters who made this city the Motor City, Motown, and leader of the urban Black civil rights and nationalist movements of the 1960’s. It is Black Detroiters who at one point had the highest home ownership rate in the country, but now have the highest child poverty rate in the county, at 59 percent.

Now suburbanites party and move downtown into luxurious lofts, scorning the Blacks they see, many of whom are homeless and begging for hand-outs. They are victims of  Detroit’s de-industrialization and the theft of its publicly-owned entities including the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department, Detroit General Hospital, the Public Lighting Department, Belle Isle, the Detroit Public School District, and many others which once employed Blacks in unionized, good-paying jobs with benefits. 


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U.S.: STOP SENDING CHILDREN TO DIE IN PRISON! (Photo from Equal Justice Initiative website.)

By Efren Paredes, Jr.

(Updates from Voice of Detroit in italics)

Re-printed from http://4efren.blogspot.com 

 September 14, 2017

Sarah Marie Johnson, 16 when she was charged with killing her parents in Idaho.

Attorneys for an Idaho prisoner, Sarah Marie Johnson, recently petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a national ban on life without parole (LWOP) sentences for juvenile offenders.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals also heard oral arguments September 13, 2017 in Hill v. Snyder, a Michigan case seeking the same absolute ban, among other issues. Both appeals are asking for remedies that SURPASS the original U.S. Supreme Court decisions in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016).

Hill v. Snyder

(VOD) “Plaintiffs bring three main classes of claims against Michigan’s new sentencing scheme for juveniles who commit first-degree murder,” reads the Hill v. Snyder brief in part, filed by the Michigan ACLU and Atty. Deborah LaBelle, among others. “They categorically challenge the imposition of a life-without-parole sentence on any child; they challenge Michigan’s particular statutory scheme for imposing juvenile life-without-parole sentences; and they challenge the lack of a meaningful opportunity for release for juveniles who receive a 60-year maximum instead of life-without-parole.”

Counts argued in the brief are Count II: Challenge to Life Imprisonment Without the Possibility of Parole; Count IV: Challenge to Lack of Meaningful Opportunity for Parole; Counts I, V and VI: Parole Consideration, Good Time Credits, and Programming.

The full brief is at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Hill-v-Snyder-Appellant-brief-for-9-13-17-hearing.pdf.

Attorney Deborah LaBelle, champion of Michigan’s juvenile lifers.

Oral arguments were held at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. Sept. 13, in front of a panel consisting of Senior Judge Gilbert Merrick (appointed by U.S. Pres. Jimmy Carter), and Judges Jane Branstetter Stranch (appointed by U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton), and Bernice B. Donald (appointed by U.S. Pres. Barack Obama). The first two judges graduated from the Vanderbilt University Law School, and have taught there.

Attorney Deborah LaBelle passionately argued that immediate action is necessary for the 247 juvenile lifers in Michigan who have not been re-sentenced and remain in a limbo of  unknown duration. She noted that six juvenile lifers have already died since the ACLU brought its case in 2010.  Prosecutors across Michigan recommended that these individuals, two-thirds of the total 363, receive LWOP again. LaBelle also argued strongly against provisions of state statutes MCL 769.25 and 769.25(a) which bar juvenile lifers, 98 of whom have so far been re-sentenced to a term of years, from the use of their “good/disciplinary time” credits, and which limit term of years sentences to a minimum of 25-40 years, and a maximum of 60 years. She called the 60 year maximum a defacto LWOP sentence.

To listen to the the full oral arguments, click on http://www.opn.ca6.uscourts.gov/internet/court_audio/aud1.php.

These appeals are proceeding while many Michigan prosecutors continue delaying resentencing hearings for 247 prisoners who received LWOP sentences when they were juveniles (“juvenile lifers”). Many of the prisoners have languished behind bars for decades as 192 civilized nations in the world have abandoned the pernicious practice of condemning juveniles to die in prison.

In 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders are unconstitutional and ordered the resentencing of the nation’s 2,500 prisoners affected by the ruling. Prosecutors from several states ignored the landmark decision, including Michigan, claiming that it was not retroactive and did not apply to cases that had previously exhausted the direct appeal process.

The high court subsequently settled the issue in 2016 making it abundantly clear that its previous ruling four years earlier is indeed retroactive. The court added that upon resentencing juvenile lifers, only prisoners who a sentencing court could establish are “incapable of change” the remainder of their lives can receive LWOP sentences, and that the extreme sentence must become “rare” and “uncommon.”

Kim Craighead and family campaign for freedom for her husband Michael Calvin and his childhood friend Charles Lewis during Detroit Juvenile Lifers for Justice Rally  June 18. Both face re-sentencing to JLWOP in Wayne County, although they have each spent over 41 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. Craig was not the shooter in a group of several adults; the others have been free for over 35 years. Lewis has been the subject of numerous stories in VOD showing his innocence, as well as mainstream media coverage.

Michigan is home to the second largest population of juvenile lifers in the nation. Prior to 2016 there were 363 prisoners serving the draconian sentence. Seventy percent of them are people of color; a portrait of savage inequality. Since the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling only 91 prisoners have been resentenced. Six prisoners died during the four year wait and never had the opportunity to be resentenced or given serious parole consideration.

Prosecutors across the state are seeking LWOP sentences again for 247 juvenile lifers, or 68% of them, in defiance of the high court ruling. Prosecutors from the counties of Berrien, Genesee, Macomb, Oakland, Saginaw, and Wayne are responsible for seeking LWOP sentences for over 100 of those prisoners.

Wayne County’s juvenile lifers; Prosecutor Kym Worthy has recommended new JLWOP sentences for the highest number in the state–will they live to see freedom?

Sarah Marie Johnson vs. State of Idaho

In their August 10, 2017 Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court attorneys for Idaho juvenile lifer Sarah Marie Johnson argue that states are rapidly prohibiting juvenile LWOP sentences. They note that nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently prohibit juvenile LWOP sentences.

Prior to the high court’s 2012 decision banning mandatory juvenile LWOP sentences only four states prohibited the practice. In 20 states every juvenile offender has a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate to a parole board or judge that s/he has rehabilitated themself in prison and should be eligible for release consideration. In addition to the 20 jurisdictions that have formally abandoned juvenile LWOP sentencing six states have no individuals serving juvenile LWOP sentences. Seven more states have five or fewer individuals serving the draconian sentence.

According to the Johnson brief, “In total, 33 jurisdictions are either abolitionist, or functionally so.”

Earlier this year the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held, “For a sentence of [LWOP] to be proportional as applied to a juvenile murderer, the sentencing court must first find, based on competent evidence, that the offender is entirely unable to change.”

They added, “It must find that there is no possibility that the offender could be rehabilitated at any point later in his life, no matter how much time he spends in prison and regardless of the amount of therapeutic interventions he receives, and that the crime committed reflects the juveniles true and unchangeable personality and character.” (Commonwealth v. Batts, No. 45 MAP 2016, 2017 WL 2735411 (Pa. June 26, 2017))

The Johnson petition to the high court argues that, “While most jurisdictions are following the letter and spirit of this court’s juvenile jurisprudence, a handful persists in pursuing the harshest penalties against large numbers of juvenile offenders.”


They specifically characterized Michigan and Louisiana as being among “a handful of extreme outliers that are flouting the [U.S. Supreme] Court’s dictate to limit JLWOP to the rare juvenile offender.”

In other words, the abuse of authority and other malfeasance of Michigan’s  rogue prosecutors is being used as examples by other states to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to end the deplorable practice of sentencing juveniles to die in prison.

Johnson’s attorneys have to establish that either the national trend supports that sentencing juveniles to die in prison is no longer acceptable among most states or that the standards of decency regarding this matter have evolved.

As they state: “A substantial majority of states have abandoned JLWOP in law and practice, and others have acted to narrow its application. Today, the use of JLWOP is carried on by a handful of prosecutors in a shrinking number of counties and states. … [S]entencing children to die in prison is cruel and unusual [which violates the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution].”

Sarah Marie Johnson, now 30

If the U.S. Supreme Court accepts the Johnson petition numerous other supporting amicus (i.e., friend of the court) briefs are likely to be filed from various groups and organizations across the country. This frequently occurs in cases that could impact many states or people, or become a landmark decision.

A favorable ruling by the high court would result in a national ban of LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders. Prosecutors who have created inordinate sentencing delays for juvenile lifers who have not yet been resentenced would be precluded from seeking LWOP sentences against them again and any prisoner currently serving the sentence would be eligible for a term-of-year sentence. 

Many people contend that prosecutors intentionally orchestrated creating the conditions for the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a categorical ban on LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders. Doing so would save them time and resources by making it unnecessary to conduct legitimate reviews of each individual case, and deciding whether or not prisoners in their jurisdictions are truly eligible for a LWOP sentence.

Diane and Alan Scott Johnson, Sarah’s parents; she was accused of killing them because they forbid her to date an older Latino man and threatened to prosecute him for statutory rape.  However,  no biological matter was found on Sarah or her clothing, in her hair, hands or anywhere else. Experts testified that with Diane having been shot at such close range, it would be impossible for the shooter to avoid being sprayed with blood and tissue. Her fingerprints were also not found on the bullets, rifle or the knives.  

According to a source employed in the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office who asked not to be named, “Prosecutors always say it’s about victims but it’s not. They use victims to advance their tough on crime policy but ignore them when it can make them appear soft on crime.”

The person added, “There are instances where victims have forgiven perpetrators, believe in giving them a second chance, or a reduction in time, and prosecutors ignore their wishes. Ultimately this is about prosecutors protecting their jobs and salvaging their reputations.”

While this cruel drama has played out prosecutors have vociferously demonized juvenile offenders and expressed their obsession with pursuing LWOP sentences again when resentencing juvenile lifers.

They know the nation is on the cusp of ending the deplorable practice once and for all. Despite this reality they continue manipulating the public and media in their relentless thirst for reelection. Whatever the motivations of these prosecutors, the winding labrynth of justice the public is witnessing juvenile lifers be subjected to is but one chilling example that demonstrates why the U.S. Supreme Court provides a checks and balances to lower courts, judges, prosecutors, and legislatures.

Absent their oversight some would continue ignoring the evolving standards of decency of a civilized society, and leave us trapped in the tombs of yesterday’s thinking. Thankfully the high court has frequently reminded us through its rulings that we can’t always use antiquated approaches to solve modern day problems. The consensus among many of the nation’s legal scholars is that in the coming months the U.S. Supreme Court will very likely strike down the imposition of LWOP sentences for juvenile offenders nationwide.

If a favorable decision isn’t reached in the Idaho case the likelihood it will occur in a similar case is growing increasingly high each day. Defiant prosecutors have made it possible.

See full Sarah Marie Johnson v. State of Idaho petition for writ of certiorari at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/17-236-petition-Sarah-Marie-Johnson-certiorari-to-USSC.pdf

Below: the role of race in incarcerating juvenile lifers across the U.S.

Efren Paredes Jr. with family

Efren Paredes, Jr. is a Michigan prisoner who is a social justice advocate, blogger and weekly guest on the Elena Herrada Show on Detroit Superstation AM 910 Sunday mornings during the 7 am to 8 am hour. You can learn more about Efren and his latest writings by visiting www.fb.com/Free.Efren  or www.TinyURL.com/Efren1016


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Protesters vs. the acquittal of killer cop Jason Stockley clog ramp onto I-40 in St. Louis

Cop Jason Stockley rammed Anthony Lamar Smith’s car, then shot him 5 times at close range with cop’s personal AK-47, planted gun

Stockley heard on dashcam video: “going to kill this —-, don’t you know it”

SLPD moves to stop protesters; National Guard in wings

Arch City Defenders: St. Louis Police Dept. the “deadliest in the country”

September 15, 2017

Anthony Lamar Smith, 24, with one-year-old daughter

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A judge [today] acquitted a white former St. Louis police officer of murder in the 2011 killing of [Anthony Lamar Smith, 24], a decision that could spark protests with National Guard troops on standby.

Judge Timothy Wilson found the former officer, Jason Stockley, not guilty of first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Anthony Lamar Smith. The bench ruling came more than a month after testimony concluded.

Activists had threatened civil disobedience if Stockley was acquitted, and authorities took steps to deal with that scenario. All three downtown courthouses, including the federal courthouse, and some city schools were closed on in anticipation of the verdict.

The police department said officers would be working 12-hour shifts starting Friday and Mayor Lyda Krewson said the State Highway Patrol and St. Louis County police would provide support, with the patrol handling any protests on state highways.

Republican Gov. Eric Greitens, meanwhile, put the National Guard on standby in case of unrest. He and the mayor urged protesters to be peaceful, a sentiment echoed by Smith’s fiancée, Christina Wilson.

Here’s a look at the case:


Killer cop Jason Stockley

Stockley and his partner saw what appeared to be a drug transaction in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant on Dec. 20, 2011. As the officers sought to corner Smith, he drove away. Stockley’s defense attorney, Neil Bruntrager, said the officers were nearly run over. Stockley fired at the fleeing car, then a car chase began.

Police dashcam video captured Stockley saying, “going to kill this (expletive), don’t you know it,” in the midst of the chase. As Smith’s car slowed, Stockley told his partner to slam the police SUV into it, and his partner did so. Stockley then got out of the SUV and fired five shots into Smith’s car, killing him.

Bruntrager said Stockley fired only after Smith refused commands to put up his hands and reached along the seat toward an area where a gun was found. But prosecutors said Stockley planted the gun. Testing found Stockley’s DNA on the gun, but not Smith’s.


Stockley, now 36, graduated from a Catholic high school in nearby Belleville, Illinois, then went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduation, he served in Iraq, where he was injured and awarded the Army Bronze Star. Stockley joined the St. Louis Police Department in 2007. He resigned in 2013, about two years after the shooting, and moved to Houston.

Smith had a 1-year-old daughter when he died. His family has not disclosed much about him. Court records show he had a criminal record that included convictions for unlawful possession of a firearm and drug distribution. At the time of the shooting, he was on probation for a theft charge related to a 2010 crime in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. In 2013, the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners reached a $900,000 settlement with Smith’s family, ending a wrongful-death lawsuit filed on behalf of Smith’s daughter.


St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Timothy WIlson

The circuit attorney’s office initially decided not to charge Stockley, but police internal affairs brought new evidence in March 2016. Then-Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce announced in May 2016 that Stockley was charged with first-degree murder.

The new evidence wasn’t disclosed, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch obtained the dashboard camera video and published it soon after charges were announced. The footage outraged activists.

Prosecutors opted not to pursue the death penalty. Stockley chose to have the case decided by a judge, rather than a jury, and the judge agreed despite the objections of prosecutors.


Police and courts in the St. Louis area have been under scrutiny since the 2014 fatal shooting by police of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson. Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by a white officer after they skirmished in a street. Weeks of often-violent protests followed, and violence was renewed that November after a grand jury declined to indict the officer, who resigned that month.

Since then, police have fatally shot several other black suspects in St. Louis. Stockley is the only St. Louis police officer to be charged with murder in recent years.

Joint statement from us, St. Louis Action Council and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE):

ArchCity Defenders, Inc. from Facebook

Acquittal in Jason Stockley’s Murder of Anthony Lamar Smith Reinforces Message that Law Enforcement can Use Fatal, Excessive Force and Turn to Courts for Protection

Protesters in St. Louis pause in smoke of burning St. Louis Cardinals T-shirt on ground.

On Friday, a judge acquitted Officer Jason Stockley of first degree murder and armed criminal action for the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, a twenty-four year-old black man and father from St. Louis. ArchCity Defenders stands in solidarity with the family of Anthony Lamar Smith, whose name was added to the long list of black men and women killed by the police in the St. Louis region. Grieving families who lose loved ones at the hands of police officers all too often seek justice from a legal system that instead protects their loved ones’ killers.

We saw this play out today in Jason Stockley’s case, a former St. Louis Metro Police Officer, who was not convicted for the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith. This devastating verdict reinforces the message that law enforcement can use fatal, excessive force against communities of color and turn to the courts for protection. The egregious facts of this case underscore the failures of the criminal legal system even in clear cut cases of police violence.

Protesters walk up entrance ramp to I-40

Officer Stockley carried his personal weapon, an AK-47, with him on duty in violation of department policy. Stockley was heard saying “I’m going to kill this motherfucker,” during his pursuit. He shot Anthony Lamar Smith five times at close range, with the “kill shot” being fired from six inches away from Mr. Smith. Officer Stockley’s statements at the scene contradicted that of other witnesses, too. Yet, he was acquitted.

This case makes it crystal clear that police officers may murder with impunity. National data indicates that St. Louis City police department kills more people per capita than other departments, making it the deadliest in the country. Additionally, black men are killed by St. Louis police at a rate of 9 for every 100,000 people, almost double the national average murder rate of 5 for every 100,000 people.

“Mr. Smith’s family has already lost their loved one to violence and now they are being denied justice. If police can announce they are going to murder, carry personal AK-47s, plant weapons, and shoot unarmed people 5 times at close range with no consequences, no black man in America is safe,” said Thomas Harvey, Executive Director of Arch City Defenders.

Anthony Smith’s fiancee Christina Wilson and their daughter Autumn Smith

“Police and courts in this region and across America have to accept that racism influences police actions and the court’s protection of those actions. This verdict shows that there has been no change. There can be no trust without accountability.”

“Three years after the Ferguson Uprising, St. Louis finds itself in the same place. The continued disregard for black life and the failure to hold police accountable creates heightened tensions between police and the community. We will continue to demand justice and are committed to using every tool available to do so,” said Organizer and Activist, Kayla Reed, who is also a board member of ArchCity Defenders. ArchCity Defenders is a nonprofit civil rights law firm committed to providing holistic legal advocacy and to combating the criminalization of poverty and state violence against the poor and people of color. http://www.archcitydefenders.org/

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The officials above railroaded Thelonious Searcy for the murder of Jamal Segars, which Vincent Smothers has now confessed to.

“KOURTS, KOPS, KROOKS”-Henry Dudzinski, Coalition vs. Police Brutality

By Thelonious Searcy

August 31, 2017 

(VOD ed. note: Mr. Searcy has been held in the Michigan Department of Corrections, serving a life without parole sentence, since 2005. Noted Detroit hitman Vincent Smothers has confessed in an affidavit and a taped interview with private investigator Scott Lewis to the murder for which Searcy was framed, giving details very consistent with the crime scene evidence. Third Judicial Criminal Court Presiding Judge Timothy Kenny has yet to grant Searcy’s July, 22, 2016 request for a new trial, based on Smothers’ 2015 confession and a claim of actual innocence. The office of Prosecutor Kym Worthy has essentially not opposed the request.) 

Thelonious Searcy, in prison for 14 years for crime he did not commit.

Kincheloe, MI – To the readers on this controversial topic, the views expressed in this article are based on my personal experience with the judicial system in Detroit. Many people may or may not relate to my experience . . . .

My name is Thelonious Shawn Searcy. Within 12 years of this prison sentence, I have met over 100 criminal defendants who have been railroaded into the penal system, under the guidance of an incompetent defense lawyer, a corrupt homicide investigator, and/or a rogue prosecutor.

As a criminal defendant, I suffered from the incompetence of my criminal defense attorney during my trial at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit. I was 25 years old. I didn’t have any comprehensive knowledge about the law which governs the criminal judicial system.

Many judges would say: “THERE’S NO EXCUSE FOR IGNORANCE OF THE LAW.” At the height of my ignorance, I witnessed a crooked homicide detective, a malicious prosecutor, and an incompetent attorney violate my constitutional rights, with no regard!

After I was sent to the Michigan Department of Corrections, in 2005, I forced myself to learn the LAW. On my quest to learn this foreign language, I felt illiterate mainly because I felt like I was ignorant for not expanding my mind, to learn beyond mathematics, English, and writing. In my early stages of learning the law, I ordered a Black’s Law Dictionary. This book gives you the language of the courts.

After learning the language of the law, I began to study the MCL’s, which are the Michigan Compiled Laws, as well as court rules.  One discriminatory Michigan Rule of Evidence (MRE) that played an instrumental role against me is known as 404(b). This law deals with character evidence. In my case, Prosecutor Patrick Muscat utilized this law to establish motive and intent in a murder case. He also used this law to say I had the propensity to commit violence.

MRE Rule 404  Character Evidence Not Admissible to Prove Conduct; Exceptions; Other Crimes (a) Character evidence generally. Evidence of a person’s character or a trait of character is not admissible for the purpose of proving action in conformity therewith on a particular occasion, except . . . .

(b) Other crimes, wrongs, or acts.  (1) Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, scheme, plan, or system in doing an act, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident when the same is material, whether such other crimes, wrongs, or acts are contemporaneous with, or prior or subsequent to the conduct at issue in the case. (2) The prosecution in a criminal case shall provide reasonable notice in advance of trial, or during trial if the court excuses pretrial notice on good cause shown, of the general nature of any such evidence it intends to introduce at trial and the rationale, whether or not mentioned in subparagraph (b)(1), for admitting the evidence. If necessary to a determination of the admissibility of the evidence under this rule, the defendant shall be required to state the theory or theories of defense, limited only by the defendant’s privilege against self-incrimination.

After I understood that this prosecutor’s language was an attack on my character, I began to bear witness to Hosea 4:6 which states, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.”

I was sent to prison for life due to a lack of knowledge, at a crucial hour and time in my life. A criminal defense attorney is a defendant’s voice inside the courtroom. He/she is there to protect his/her client’s Constitutional rights, at all times.

When an attorney performs on a competent level, he/she fights against ALL injustices which transpire with their client. A [defense] attorney should never serve as a “Second Prosecutor” against any criminal defendant during a criminal proceeding. When a defense attorney’s performance displays TREASON, his/her license should be revoked immediately!  A judicial system is in place to establish order, when lawlessness is reigning supreme.

The late Henry Dudzinski (r) of the Detroit Coalition Vs. Police Brutality created shirts with the slogan, Kourts, Kops, Krooks. He was jailed for weeks because he refused to take the shirt off during the civil trial of killer kop Eugene Brown.

When the face of justice operates on the wrong side of the law, it destroys the whole idea of “Justice.” I don’t believe it is possible to restore the Judicial System with Corrupt Officials in power!

Corrupt officials have created an imbalance in a system that’s supposed to uphold the law(s), under any circumstances. When you have government officials who set people up for profit in Murder Cases, Gun Cases, and Drug Cases, it becomes problematic!

Corruption goes against the interest of Justice. When Judges and Prosecutors excuse the unethical behavior of “Corrupt Police,” it shows that they are all right with the tactics used by these individuals, who railroad people into prison falsely. A system filled with Corruption destroys Justice and Equality. The system can be restored, but only by holding everybody accountable who breaks the laws that govern the land. Until then, there can never be Liberty and Justice for ALL!

Jason “JayBird” Gibson during 2011 trial.

Detroit police officer Brian Huff.

(Ed. note: VOD witnessed MRE 404b used unconstitutionally against defendant Jason Gibson in his 2011  trial for the murder of Detroit police officer Brian Huff, inside what turned out to be a police drug house.

Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway allowed Detroit cops to testify to alleged circumstances surrounding an earlier arrest of Gibson. Gibson was never tried or convicted in that case. VOD interviewed civilian witnesses of that arrest, who comprehensively contradicted the cops’ version of events, but were never called to testify.

Gibson was found guilty despite the unbelievable testimony of Huff’s white partner and many other white cops, who claimed he shot Huff in the head, then came out on the porch of the house and fired at numerous other cops. Gibson, who had actually jumped out of an upstairs back bedroom window and was arrested WITHOUT A GUN in the backyard, sustained only one bullet wound to his buttock.)

Related stories:











#FreeTheloniousSearcy, #FreeJasonGibson, #FreeCharlesLewis, #FreeAllVictimsofPoliceCourtFrameups, #KourtsKopsKrooks

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New Carlisle News photographer Andy Grimm was shot by a Clark County deputy Monday evening.

Andy had left the office around 10:00 p.m. to take pictures of lightning.

There was a traffic stop on Main Street near Studebaker’s Restaurant involved, but Andy was not the subject of the stop.

He had his camera and tripod in his hands and Deputy Jake Shaw apparently mistook it for a weapon and fired, striking Andy in the side.

New Carlisle news photographer Andy Grimm

He was rushed to Miami Valley Hospital for surgery. He is expected to recover from his wounds.

“I was going out to take pictures and I saw the traffic stop and I thought, ‘hey, cool. I’ll get some pictures here.'” He said he pulled into Studebaker’s parking lot in full view of the deputy, got out of his Jeep in full view of the deputy and started setting up his tripod and camera. “I turned around toward the cars and then ‘pop, pop,'”

Andy said the deputy gave him no warning. “I was just doing my job,” he said.

The Attorney General’s BCI division is investigating the incident, and we will update this story as soon as they release their findings.

Andy is well known in the area for his love of photography. The outpouring of love and affection for him on Facebook has been overwhelming.

Everyone at the New Carlisle News thanks you for your support.

‘Somebody was looking out for me,’ journalist shot by Ohio deputy speaks


Andy Grimm shows bandaged wound.

UPDATE: NEW CARLISLE, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) – News editor Andy Grimm told FOX 45’s Rhonda Moore that he isn’t upset with the officer who shot him.

Grimm said he and Deputy Jake Shaw know each other and have had several conversations. Monday night, the officer pulled another driver over and Grimm stopped to shoot pictures of that along with the lightning.

He said instead he ended up getting shot with a 40 caliber gun.

“My camera was already on the tripod,” Grimm said, “and I grabbed it like this and turned and I just hear pop, pop. I did not hear a single warning, did not hear the deputy identify himself. I said, ‘What the [bleep] Jake Shaw, you shot me dude’.”

He said Deputy Shaw came over to him.

“He said ‘oh my God Andy,’ then he made the call ‘shots fired, got a man down.’ He definitely told me, he said ‘I thought it was a gun, it thought it was a gun,'” Grimm said.

He was checked out and released from the hospital Tuesday, and said he isn’t angry with the deputy.

He’s not angry with Deputy Shaw.

“There’s so much animosity toward police officers,” Grimm said. “He was just doing his job. I think he made a bad decision. He shot somebody, an unarmed civilian. Realistically there’s going to be consequences.”

Grimm has confidence the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations will conduct a thorough investigation.

Area where Grimm was shot is cordoned off.

 UPDATE: NEW CARLISLE, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) – The news editor of the New Carlisle News was shot Monday night after he says a Clark County deputy mistook his tripod for a weapon.

Andy Grimm spoke exclusively to FOX 45 from his home, showing us his wounds and saying “Somebody was looking out for me.” He says the bullet that hit him in his side missed vital organs.

Overnight Grimm spoke with FOX 45 from his hospital room at Miami Valley Hospital. He says he was on his way home and decided to get some photos of lightning. As he was driving, he noticed a deputy had pulled a driver over, so he stopped to check that out as well.

Grimm tells FOX 45 he left his vehicle’s lights on so the deputy could see him. His camera was in the backseat. He got out of his vehicle to get his camera and when he did, he felt a sting; he said it felt like something bit him.

“I immediately dropped to the ground, and I saw the deputy and that’s when I realized, ‘Oh man, he shot me.’ He came running over and said, ‘Oh, I thought that was a gun.'” Grimm said one bullet grazed his shoulder while another hit him in the side.

Grimm said he knows the deputy well and works with him frequently. Grimm tells FOX 45 he does not want the deputy to lose his job over the shooting.

“I was on my way to identify myself to the deputy so he didn’t think that I was sneaking up on him. I am not mad at the deputy. I just wish I would have said something before he pulled the trigger.”

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has identified the deputy as Jake Shaw.  Shaw has been placed on administrative leave as the investigation continues. In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the sheriff’s office says “Our hearts and prayers are with Mr. Grimm as he recovers and with Deputy Jake Shaw and we ask the community to keep both of them in your hearts and prayers as well.”

The Ohio Bureau of Crime Investigation is handling the investigation.  

This photo by Andrew Grimm is at the top of the Clark County Sheriff’s Facebook Page.


Lily Wright

Voice of Detroit editor Diane Bukowski thanks her good friend and fellow City of Detroit retiree Lily Wright, now of Cincinnati, Ohio, for alerting us to this story! Love and miss you, Lily! 

Diane under arrest

Brings back memories of my arrest by Michigan State Troopers and subsequent felony convictions on false charges of “assaulting, resisting, and obstructing” officers while I was reporting on a fatal state trooper chase in Nov. 2008 for the now defunct Michigan Citizen — retaliation for my numerous stories on police brutality and Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s refusal to charge Detroit cops with murder!


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Houston flood at Sherry Smith’s home.

DETROIT CONNECTIONS:  Jerry Bell, Jr.’s sister, family stranded in flood, have since been rescued

Jerry T. Bell Jr.

August 30, 2017

Sherry Smith

Family member

Bell family members

Please pray for my sister Sherry Smith and family members that are trapped in the Texas flood waters. I just got off the phone with her and she said that the water was pretty high up and that they were waiting for rescue. This is a photo that she sent to me. (See above.)

Update: l received a call from my sister in Texas. Both her and the kids have been rescued and taken to a safe location. Thank you for all of your prayers.

Jerry T. Bell, Jr. (r) with Kevin Kellom, father of Terrance Kellom, at vigil.

VOD: Jerry T. Bell Jr. is a well-known community activist in both Warren and Detroit.  He is currently challenging Warren’s racist districting policies and election requirements. His family was devastated in 2016 when his cousin Terrance Kellom, 19, was viciously executed by a multi-agency task force in front of his father Kevin Kellom and other family members. Jerry fought for justice for Terrance Kellom. He is also an accomplished hydroplane racer who has fought for years to get into the Gold Cup races on the Detroit River, dominated by white drivers and administrators. 

Can the politicians heed the lessons of Hurricane Harvey?

Posted August 30, 2017 (excerpted)https://blog.nader.org/2017/08/30/can-the-politicians-heed-the-lessons-of-hurricane-harvey/

Hovering Hurricane Harvey, loaded and reloading with trillions of gallons of water raining down on the greater Houston region—ironically the hub of the petroleum refining industry—is an unfolding, off the charts tragedy for millions of people. Many of those most affected are minorities and low-income families with no homes, health care or jobs to look forward to once the waters recede.

Will this tragedy teach us the lessons that so many politicians and impulsive voters have been denying for so long?

The first lesson is that America must come home: we must end the Empire of Militarism and of playing the role of policeman of the planet. Both of these habitual roles are backfiring and depleting trillions of taxpayer dollars that could be better used toward rebuilding our country’s infrastructure, strengthening our catastrophe-response networks and preparing for the coming megastorms like Hurricane Harvey. A projected trillion dollars being spent by Obama, and now Trump, just to upgrade nuclear weapons will only spur another arms race with Russia and China. This money could be more productively spent protecting Americans from immediate threats, such as natural disasters from man-made climate change.

Politicians must stop overstuffing a bloated military budget and leaving our country fiscally unprepared to handle mass epidemics and mass megastorms. In short, will they stop leaving our country defenseless against the prospects of huge levels of mortality and morbidity?

Houston residents make their way on foot through flood -where is the military now?

Second, Congressional and White House deniers of man-made climate disruption must renounce their dogmatic ignorance and confront the reality in the scientific warnings about the accelerating wrath of a provoked natural world.

Last month, I asked Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe—who has called climate change a “hoax”—what level of evidence would change his mind about climate change. He has not replied yet. But that is the question that should be asked of all Trumpsters, including the voters who share their disregard: Just what series of climate events  – what piles of scientific measurements and documentations now in the Arctic, the Andes, Antarctica, Greenland, the Maldives, etc. – could change their minds?

Third, our elected officials must accept that continuing to waste trillions of dollars on corporate subsidies, bailouts, giveaways and lack of enforcement of costly crime—crony capitalism—further weakens our country’s capacity to foresee and forestall omnicidal disasters.

Houston residents in shelter.

Enough, also, of the Congressional Republicans starving the IRS budget so it cannot collect more of the many billions of dollars in uncollected global corporate taxes. These Republicans don’t seem to connect the size of deficits, which they detest, with uncollected tax revenue, now estimated by the IRS to exceed $350 billion a year.

Maybe someone should finally write a book entitled “Listen, Voters.” It could start by asking why enough voters keep electing politicians, who sweet talk them, only hook up with corporations and an ideology of corporatism that adversely affects the very voters who put them into office, along with many other Americans. . . .

The August 29, 2017 Washington Post paused from its extensive coverage of the destruction in Houston to laud the “Flood of Courage” in its lead editorial. It wrote of the “massive – and inspiring – volunteer rescue response…With nothing more than their own courage, good people ventured into the rushing gullies and culverts, risking their lives to save others in the unrelenting rain.”

While Trump tweets and hopefully reconsiders his earlier cruel budget cuts for FEMA and other life-saving federal agencies – such as the Centers for Disease Control and the EPA – the people are swinging into action on the ground.

Texas, Louisiana under water: Capitalist crime scene

By Deirdre Griswold posted on August 29, 2017

Aug. 29 — The coasts of Texas and Louisiana have become an ongoing crime scene. The crime is against the millions of people living along the Gulf of Mexico as well as their property — and it is a crime against nature itself.

And who are the criminals? Some are the same politicians who, like Donald Trump, jump before the cameras to assure the public that everything possible is being done to protect them, when in fact the forces of government are doing the barest minimum.


Others shy away from publicity — like the multibillionaire oil and gas magnates who have amassed huge fortunes over the decades promoting the very technologies that have warmed the planet and made such disasters inevitable.

They undermined mass transit in order to promote the car culture. Once the drastic effects of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere became known, what did they do? As one science publication wrote in 2015: “Exxon knew about climate change almost 40 years ago — A new investigation shows the oil company understood the science before it became a public issue and spent millions to promote disinformation.” (Scientific American, Oct. 26, 2015)

In plain words, they lied to the people. And the people are those who suffer the consequences, not the very rich who can jet to wherever pleases their luxurious lifestyle.

Texas, oil and Gov. Abbott

The human toll of this continuing tragedy will not be known until the waters subside, if ever. Unprecedented rains keep falling, turning an area the size of South Carolina into a vast, muddy lake. Yet already Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is telling the people that this “is one of the largest disasters America has ever faced” and there will be “a new normal for this entire region.”

And who is Abbott? Just two months ago, he signed a resolution sponsored by the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers that urged the federal government to reverse “some of the harmful regulations that have stunted the growth of our industry.”

Victims of politicians’ de-regulation need to sue the oil and gas industries

The resolution applauds “the more than 20 lawsuits that Texas has filed in conjunction with many other oil and gas producing states against federal over-regulation that prioritizes minor environmental gains over major productive losses.”

“Minor environmental gains.” How ironic and telling that Hurricane Harvey, which has now dumped up to four feet of rain on parts of Texas and Louisiana since Aug. 25, is hitting the very states where the oil companies control the political structure lock, stock and barrel.

The billionaire owners of these companies should be behind bars — in the very jails that are now under water in Houston and other cities.

Scientists cannot say a particular storm is caused by global warming. There have always been hurricanes and floods. But they emphatically confirm that the increase in severe weather events now being experienced around the globe is caused by warmer temperatures.

NOAA handout: satellite photo of monstrous Hurricane Harvey

Did nobody see this coming? What about this article from the Washington Post, which appeared on March 21 of this year:

“Water temperatures at the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and near South Florida are on fire. They spurred a historically warm winter from Houston to Miami. … In the Gulf, the average sea surface temperature never fell below 73 degrees over the winter for the first time on record, reported Eric Berger of Ars Technica. Galveston, Tex., has tied or broken an astonishing 33 record highs since Nov. 1, while neighboring Houston had its warmest winter on record.”

The article predicted “intense thunderstorms” would follow. Indeed they have, and much more.

A dying social system

The cataclysm of global warming is a live-or-die test of the capitalist system, which puts profits for the ruling class before everything else. And there is no question that this social system is in critical condition. The proliferation of wars and “natural” disasters around the world attests to this fact.

Moreover, the seemingly unstoppable widening of the gap between rich and poor has reached the point in the U.S. where the richest 1/100th of 1 percent now account for almost all the gains in income..

Thousands of ordinary people — not the 0.01% — have volunteered their time and boats to help the people of the Gulf Coast escape the rising waters. It is commendable, but it also shows what is lacking: an organized, massive response to a disaster situation that requires planning and the allocation of great resources. That hasn’t happened.

Is it a problem of resources? Hardly.

Beginning in 2016, the U.S. government announced it would allocate a trillion dollars — $1,000,000,000,000! — over the next 30 years to “modernizing” the U.S. nuclear arsenal. It’s one of the projects begun under President Barack Obama that Trump has had no difficulty embracing. The Alliance for Nuclear Accountability called it the “Trillion Dollar Trainwreck,” adding, “This plan directly benefits the private corporations that are invested in the maintenance and production of nuclear weapons.”

Where are the trillions Trump promised to rescue Houston residents?

What this country really needs is not more nuclear weapons in order to impose imperialist terms on the rest of the world, but an all-out plan to combat global warming. That’s already responsible for so many deaths from hurricanes, heat waves, torrential rains, flooding, mud slides — and it is only intensifying.

The answer of the Trump administration? Pull out of the Paris Accords, which were weak to begin with, and deny that climate change even exists. The country that boasts of “leading the world” is the biggest drag on human progress.

The U.S. economy has way, way overgrown this profit-motivated capitalist system. The ownership and control of the vast means of production by a handful of billionaires are completely incompatible with a globalized economy in which the labor of hundreds of millions of workers contributes to the making and distribution of every product. Capitalism is a reactionary, self-destructive anachronism that must be shattered.

Socialized ownership of the means of production is necessary if we as a species are to take control of our destiny. We have the knowledge and the means to plan for an infinitely better world. What we need is a movement independent of the corrupt political machinery that has imposed the rule of the very few on the many.

Homeless man finds shelter from the storm.

Texas toxic waste sites flooded EPA not on scene

Jason Dearen and Michael Biesecker, Associated Press Published 5:33 p.m. ET Sept. 2, 2017 | Updated 6:03 p.m. ET Sept. 2, 2017 

In this Aug. 31, 2017 file photo, a barbed-wire fence encircles the Highlands Acid Pit that was flooded by water from the nearby San Jacinto River as a result from Harvey in Highlands, Texas.(Photo: Jason Dearen / AP)


 Highlands, Texas — As Dwight Chandler sipped beer and swept out the thick muck caked inside his devastated home, he worried whether Harvey’s floodwaters had also washed in pollution from the old acid pit just a couple blocks away.

Long a center of the nation’s petrochemical industry, the Houston metro area has more than a dozen Superfund sites, designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as being among America’s most intensely contaminated places. Many are now flooded, with the risk that waters were stirring dangerous sediment.

Dwight Chandler

The Highlands Acid Pit site near Chandler’s home was filled in the 1950s with toxic sludge and sulfuric acid from oil and gas operations. Though 22,000 cubic yards of hazardous waste and soil were excavated from the acid pits in the 1980s, the site is still considered a potential threat to groundwater, and the EPA maintains monitoring wells there.

When he was growing up in Highlands, Chandler, now 62, said he and his friends used to swim in the by-then abandoned pit.

“My daddy talks about having bird dogs down there to run and the acid would eat the pads off their feet,” he recounted on Thursday. “We didn’t know any better.”

The Associated Press visited seven Superfund sites in and around Houston during the flooding. All had been inundated with water; some were accessible only by boat.

EPA spokeswoman Amy Graham could not immediately provide details on when agency experts would inspect the Houston-area sites. She said Friday that EPA staff had checked on two other Superfund sites in Corpus Christi and found no significant damage.

“We will begin to assess other sites after flood waters recede in those areas,” Graham said.

At the Highlands Acid Pit on Thursday, the Keep Out sign on the barbed-wire fence encircling the 3.3-acre site barely peeked above the churning water from the nearby San Jacinto River.

A fishing bobber was caught in the chain link, and the air smelled bitter. A rusted incinerator sat just behind the fence, poking out of the murky soup.

Across the road at what appeared to be a more recently operational plant, a pair of tall white tanks had tipped over into a heap of twisted steel. It was not immediately clear what, if anything, might have been inside them when the storm hit.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has called cleaning up Superfund sites a priority, even as he has taken steps to roll back or delay rules aimed at preventing air and water pollution. President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget seeks to cut money for the Superfund program by 30 percent, though congressional Republicans are likely to approve a less severe reduction.

Like Trump, Pruitt has expressed skepticism about the predictions of climate scientists that warmer air and seas will produce stronger, more drenching storms.

close dialog


close dialog


Under the Obama administration, the EPA conducted a nationwide assessment of the increased threat to Superfund sites posed by climate change, including rising sea levels and stronger hurricanes. Of the more than 1,600 sites reviewed as part of the 2012 study, 521 were determined to be in 1-in-100 year and 1-in-500 year flood zones. Nearly 50 sites in coastal areas could also be vulnerable to rising sea levels.

The threats to human health and wildlife from rising waters that inundate Superfund sites vary widely depending on the specific contaminants and the concentrations involved. The EPA report specifically noted the risk that floodwaters might carry away and spread toxic materials over a wider area.

Jehovah’s Witnesses help clean out Houston home, protected against hazardous waste.

The report listed two dozen Superfund sites determined to be especially vulnerable to flooding and sea-level rise. The only one in Texas, the Bailey Waste Disposal site south of Beaumont, is on a marshy island along the Neches River. The National Weather Service said the Neches was expected to crest on Saturday at more than 21 feet above flood stage — 8 feet higher than the prior record.

In Crosby, across the San Jacinto River from Houston, a small working-class neighborhood sits between two Superfund sites, French LTD and the Sikes Disposal Pits.

The area was wrecked by Harvey’s floods. Only a single house from among the roughly dozen lining Hickory Lane was still standing.

After the water receded on Friday, a sinkhole the size of a swimming pool had opened up and swallowed two cars. The acrid smell of creosote filled the air.

Arkema Chemical Plant in Crosby, Texas burns.

Rafael Casas’ family had owned a house there for two decades, adjacent to the French LTD site. He said he was never told about the pollution risk until it came up in an informal conversation with a police officer who grew up nearby. Most of the homes had groundwater wells, but Casas said his family had switched to bottled water.“You never know what happens with the pollution under the ground,” said Casas, 32. “It filters into the water system.”

His neighbor, Mary Ann Avila, was sobbing as she surveyed her waterlogged home across from the sinkhole. She said officials had sent her a letter warning her to have her well tested. She said her family hadn’t had any health problems in the 17 years she’s lived there.

“Even the man that drilled our well drank from it,” said Avila, 39. “But we basically just bathe, wash our face and wash our teeth with it. But not drinking water.”

The water had receded by Saturday at Brio Refining Inc. and Dixie Oil Processors, a pair of neighboring Superfund sites about 20 miles southeast of downtown Houston in Friendswood. The road was coated in a layer of silt. Mud Gully Stream, which bisects the two sites, was full and flowing with muddy water.

Both sites were capped with a liner and soil as part of EPA-supervised cleanup efforts aimed at preventing the contamination from spreading off the low-lying sites during floods. Parts of the Brio site were elevated by 8 feet.

John Danna, the manager hired by the companies to oversee the sites, said in a phone interview that he went there after the storm and saw no signs of erosion. He said he didn’t know how high the flooding got in Harvey’s wake and that no testing of the water still draining from the area had been conducted. EPA staff are expected to visit in the next week, he said.

This Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 photo shows the heavily polluted Patrick Bayou in the Houston Ship Channel that was flooded during Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston. The bayou, which sits next to a chemical plant in an intensely industrial area of Houston, is polluted with pesticides, hydrocarbons, metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Floodwaters have inundated at least five highly contaminated toxic waste sites near Houston, raising concerns that the pollution there might spread. (Photo: Jason Dearen / AP)

A security guard at the Patrick Bayou Superfund site, just off the Houston Ship Channel in Deer Park, said Saturday that flooding came hundreds of feet inland during the storm. The water has since receded back into the bayou, where past testing has shown the sediments contain pesticides, toxic heavy metals and PCBs. The site, surrounded by active petrochemical facilities, is still awaiting a final plan for cleanup.

San Jacinto Superfund waste site just across the street from this scene.

The San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site was completely covered with floodwaters when an AP reporter saw it Thursday. According to its website, the EPA was set to make a final decision this year about a proposed $97 million cleanup effort to remove toxic waste from a paper mill that operated there in the 1960s.

The flow from the raging river washing over the toxic site was so intense it damaged an adjacent section of the Interstate 10 bridge, which has been closed to traffic due to concerns it might collapse.

There was no way to immediately assess how much contaminated soil from the site might have been washed away. According to an EPA survey from last year, soil from the former waste pits contains dioxins and other long-lasting toxins linked to birth defects and cancer.


Kara Cook-Schultz, who studies Superfund sites for the advocacy group TexPIRG, said environmentalists have warned for years about the potential for flooding to inundate Texas Superfund sites, particularly the San Jacinto Waste Pits.

“If floodwaters have spread the chemicals in the waste pits, then dangerous chemicals like dioxin could be spread around the wider Houston area,” Cook-Schultz said. “Superfund sites are known to be the most dangerous places in the country, and they should have been properly protected against flooding.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, speaking with reporters at a news conference on Saturday after the AP report was published, said he wants the EPA “in town to address the situation.”

Turner said he didn’t know about the potential environmental concerns soon enough to discuss them with President Donald Trump.

“Now we’re turning out attention to that,” he said. “It is always a concern. The environment is very concerning, and we’ll get right on top of it.”

Associated Press writer Jay Reeves contributed to this report. Biesecker reported from Washington.

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Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred responds to a question Aug. 24, 2017 at the two-day meeting of Major League Baseball owners in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

By Douglas J. Gladstone

VOD Guest Column

Published August 30, 2017              

Tony Clark, Exec. Director MLBPA, during his days as a Detroit Tigers All-Star.

When he received the coveted Jackie Robinson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City last June, Tony Clark, the former Detroit Tigers All-Star first baseman who is now the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) – the first former player to ever hold that position, by the way — referenced a quote from the late Muhammad Ali.“Success is what you achieve,” said Clark. “Your significance is what you leave.”

That’s nice, isn’t it?

But talk is cheap. Just ask former Detroit pitchers Steve Grilli and Chuck Seelbach. Or retired second baseman Chuck Srivener, of Birmingham, Michigan.  Or Carmen Fanzone, the versatile utility player for the Cubs and Red Sox who grew up in Detroit and went to Cass Technical High School and later Central Michigan. 

Or Herb Washington, the former Michigan State track star who became the designate punch runner for the Oakland Athletics.

All are among the 500 retirees without (MLB) pensions.




For the most part, baseball players nowadays are set for life. Vested retirees are able to earn as much as $210,000; even the minimum pension for someone who played after 1980 is a reported $34,000.

Except for guys like Fanzone, Grilli, Scrivener and Seelbach. They only get $625 for every quarter of service credit of 43 game days they accrued, up to 16 quarters or $10,000.

Unlike a real pension, the non-qualified retirement benefit the pre-1980 retirees receive cannot be passed on to any of the players’ spouses, loved ones or designated beneficiaries; when the man dies, the payment dies with him.  Since they are not vested, these men are also not eligible to buy into the league’s generous health insurance plan, either. 

Threatened MLB Players strike.

During the 1980 Memorial Day Weekend a threatened players strike was averted when the late Ray Grebey, the negotiator for the league, made the following offer to the late Marvin Miller and Don Fehr of the players’ association — going forward, every player would automatically qualify for a pension after 43 game days of service, and he’d qualify for health coverage after only one game day.

The problem for all the pre-1980 players was the proposal was never made retroactive.

However, Ronald Dean, an employment benefits attorney who has argued cases before the State Supreme Appellate Court in California, is quoted as saying that “under ERISA it is perfectly permissible to make an amendment retroactive even if it then vests those who were previously unvested.” Even MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred concedes it can be done, but only in collective bargaining.

Atty. Ronald Dean

To date, the MLBPA has been loath to divvy up anymore of the collective pie. Even though Forbes recently reported that the current players’ pension and welfare fund is valued at $2.7 billion, Clark has never commented about these non-vested retirees, many of whom are filing for bankruptcy at advanced ages, having banks foreclose on their homes and are so sickly and poor that they cannot afford adequate health care coverage.

Clark is a widely respected, erudite figure. So it’s a head scratcher why he doesn’t want to go to bat for these men.

‘Cause if he did, he really would be leaving these men something of great significance. And that would be a nice achievement on his part.

Douglas J. Gladstone is the author of two books and multiple newspaper, magazine and webzine stories. He and his family reside in New York.



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Attorney and guardian Mary Rowan

Rowan kidnaps partly-blind young woman without notice to her mother, who has co-guardianship, or court order

Places her in unlicensed group home with other Rowan wards

Residents of home pay $600 rent to share one bedroom, out of SSI checks

Put on close-to-starvation diet, subjected to bedbugs, abuse

Ward petitions Judge Judy Hartsfield to remove Rowan

By Diane Bukowski

August 28, 2017

Rowan assistant Katie McDonald

VOD Editor: This is one of a series of stories VOD has done on what amounts to vicious abuse by guardian and attorney Mary Rowan. Her usual M.O. is to wrangle guardianship papers from the many Wayne County Probate Court judges who appoint her, then immediately proceed to seize the ward from their current residence, without a court order of removal, without notice, and without bringing their clothing and personal belongings. She and her assistant Katie McDonald then place them in various venues including group homes without notifying their family members of their location.

The next step is to get control of the ward’s finances, and frequently move on to seize real and personal property. Perfectly competent, independent elders such as Gayle Robinson have been seized from their well-tended homes and eventually forced into nursing homes.

U.S.M.C. veteran Gayle Robinson with photo of her late husband Russell, also a veteran.

Today, according to her son Randy Robinson, Wayne County Probate Court Judge Terrance Keith heard arguments on removing Rowan as guardian and possibly placing Robinson with her daughter Kathy, in order to remove her from a nursing home with ties to Rowan allies.  The entire family must agree to this arrangement. The next hearing on the matter is October 12.

Even under her daughter’s guardianship, Robinson would lose her independence and may lose her home of many years, where she raised her 10 children with her husband, both of them veterans. While held captive in the nursing home Rowan put her in, Mrs. Robinson was drugged and thoroughly traumatized.

During the hearing, Keith first threatened another son, Ricky Robinson,  with arrest for kidnapping for bringing his mother to her own hearing from the nursing home. Rowan had forced her there with no court order from Keith. Rowan had forbidden many of Mrs. Robinson’s adult children from seeing or communicating with her.

At one point, Gayle Robinson fled the state to stay with her brother on the west coast, to avoid forced placement in a nursing home. Judge Keith jailed Randy Robinson indefinitely until his mother returned, although Keith had no jurisdiction over adults living in another state.

Sharmian Sowards with mom Wanda Worley before her current health crisis.

Meanwhile, Sharmian Sowards, a well-known country singer, has been battling charges brought by Mary Rowan against her in 33rd District Court, Brownstown Twp. The city has charged Sowards with “assaulting, resisting and obstructing” Rowan when she came to seize her mother Wanda Worley from her home.

Rowan had no court order of removal or showed Sowards any court papers at all. Sowards twice denied her entrance to her property. Worley is currently unable to leave her bed due to severe complications from spinal surgery and faulty pain management that followed. At one point she almost died, according to Sowards.

As her sole caregiver, Sowards said she cannot leave her mother’ s side and has asked 33rd District Court Judge Hesson for an adjournment of a trial set for Aug. 30-31, until her mother, her chief witness, recovers and the two can find transportation to the court hearing. The prosecution has complained that the next jury trial is not available until October, but Sowards says that is not a problem as long as her mother recovers.

Below is the petition filed by Kristina Brockington, 22, on Aug. 24 to remove Mary Rowan as her co-guardian, citing numerous violations of her rights as a ward and Rowan’s duties as a guardian. This is a move rarely used by wards because guardians do not inform them of their rights as they are required to do.

Regina Gargos, Brockington’s mother, has started a Facebook page on Mary Rowan, titled “Victims of M*ry  Rowan Wayne County Serial Kidnapper” at https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=victims%20of%20m*ry%20rowan%20wayne%20county%20serial%20kidnapper

Official declaration of Kristina M. Brockington, DOB 06/16/1995 Re: Wayne County Probate Court Case 2014-736670-GA (attachment to Terminate Guardianship of Mary Rowan Co- Guardian) to Wayne County Probate Judge Judy A. Hartsfield. Filed Aug. 24, 2017.

Wayne Co. Probate Court Judge Judy Hartsfeld

In keeping with MCL § 700.5310 (2)(3), and MCL § 700.5310 (a)(b) I Kristina M. Brockington, am petitioning Wayne County Probate Court to terminate Mary Rowan’s C0-Guradianship of myself, and to give, my mother and legal Co-Guardian full permanent guardianship of myself.  Per state law, I am requesting a hearing on this matter as required within 28 days. My mother, Regina M. Gargus was originally appointed as my guardian by this court, to which I had no objection.

Mary Rowan was appointed as Co-Guardian by this court to assist my mother in helping me to secure housing, as this court had determined that my home was not suitable, which if I had been there, however; unable at that time due to an injury; I would have objected to that analysis.

During the term of her Co-Guardianship, Mary Rowan has grossly violated my rights as a ward and her duties as a guardian.  She NEVER gave me a personal notice of her appointment, NEVER consulted me about major decisions affecting me, and has done nothing to secure services for me, so that I can return to managing my own affairs, as my mother has.

She has not made adequate provisions for my care, comfort and maintenance. Instead:

Took me from my home in Livonia where I was living with four other girls that were of my peer. She informed us through her aide Katie McDonald, that I did not have a choice.

Kristina Brockington, 22, back with her mother who nursed her back to health but was threatened by Mary Rowan for removing her from bedbug-infested group home.

She put me in a group home that was a 2 br. Brick home in Detroit, and was 40 minutes from not only my mother, but all of my friends and family. I felt extremely alone and isolated. I went from being around my friends, family and mother on regular bases, to being completely isolated, as no one was nearby.  My mother could not help as much as before, due to being that far away.

While I was in the group home, I was assaulted twice, threatened not only by a resident with serious mental issues on a daily bases,  but at times the caregiver Andreana. Andreana would get in my face often and say things like “You know I can kick your ass?” These types of  screaming threats were made at least once a week.

The caregivers, with the knowledge of the home provider, Lesa Judkins would offer me marijuana daily, even after this court asked me to stop, which they were informed. The last time I smoked with the caregiver Andreana was July 4, 2017.

 My mother prior to Katie Mc Donald removing me without a court order, helped me to quit pot, and they were offering it to me; I partook, as I was depressed from being away from my hometown, family and friends. As long as I am in my mother’s care, she makes sure I do not use it, nor does she support it; and with her support I manage quit.

I was CONSTANTLY screamed at by the caregiver.

I was told by the caregivers and Lesa Judkins that we were NOT allowed to call 911 or call for an ambulance even if we feel we need to get medical attention. (this was made very clear, like a 10 commandment).

Kristina’s mother Regina Gargos

I was never allowed to go in the kitchen, even for a glass of water. We had to ask; and many times were denied, depending on the mood of the caregiver at the time. As you can imagine, this was VERY dehumanizing and humiliating as a completely competent adult; and one that is still trying to regain back her independence.

I was attacked twice by the same resident that suffered from severe Alzheimer’s disease, and was extremely aggressive; she would try to not only attack myself, but other residents and caregivers with forks and knives.  The provider Lesa Judkins was informed more than several times that this resident is a threat not only to herself, but others. Lesa to this date has done nothing to resolve this issue. Katie Mc. Donald, the aide to Mary Rowan was also informed by me at our case management meeting.

The caregivers would make fun of me, sometimes jokingly, but not always. Made me feel insecure, and I would tell them that, but the teasing would continue.

Bologna or ham sandwich for lunch every day, no vegetables

We ate the SAME THREE meals EVERYDAY! *Cereal * Bologna or ham sandwich* (Lunch was skipped at least 3 days a week, due to not enough for everyone}. Then dinner was a very small portion of over baked chicken and noodles stuff; never any vegetables, we never had any dairy. The only thing to drink was water or Kool-Aid. There was never a completely balanced meal, and most of the time there was never enough food.

The caregivers many times went into their own pocket to buy food. Sometimes it was due to not enough food; and other times, they were sick of the same three meal options as well. My mother would get me Jimmy Johns on the days there was not enough food. This would be the only times I would get anything fresh or fresh vegetables. Almost all of their condiments were outdated by up to three years.

When I got a new roommate, another Mary Rowan ward (4 out of the 8 people were ALL Mary Rowan Wards, and NONE of them never met her, which violates state guardianship law that guardians must see their wards every three months.) She came with no belongings. She was 50 and had the mind of a 10 year-old I would guess, and had a serious seizure disorder. She was there for 10 days with no clothes, hygiene products or anything.  She and I made several calls to Katie McDonald with continued false promises. Katie Mc. Donald then left town to get married last I heard, at that time.

By day four, my roommate was not feeling well at all. She was not drinking, or eating, and her seizures were getting worse every day. I was becoming very concerned about her wellbeing. Lesa was informed, and had the House DR. come out. My roommate was requesting hospitalization, and was denied by Lesa Judkins and the DR.

By day 5, I had tried to contact the only number I had; Lesa’s she would let the calls go to voice mail.

By day 8 my roommate was begging for an ambulance. Even though I was told I better never call them, I did.  At that time I was threatened by the caregiver, and Lesa Judkins that if the ambulance would take her to the hospital, I would be going with them.

The Home was infested with bed bugs, and I suffered from bites and sores because of them. All of my complaints were ignored for months. I still have extensive scarring from them.

Lesa Judkins tied up a puppy pit bull to the corner of the yard for at least a week. He was in the sun, in the 92 degree weather with no shelter or shade; he was also forced to stay tied up in a rain storm; he would cry all day and through the night at times.  The puppy was on a chain 3-5 feet in length, and due to the shortness of the chain; was literally laying in his own urine and poop. After a week, I made a complaint to Lesa, again ignored; so I contacted animal control at which point I informed Lesa, and she removed the dog to an unknown location after that.

Scars from bedbug bites on Kristina.

I was again threatened by Lesa, that next time she would take my phone and I’ll never find it again if I pull that “shit” again. I replied with “that is animal abuse” she replied “no it’s not.  What I find disturbing is the fact that she is completely obtuse to the fact that it is abuse, and running homes for people with even more disabilities than me.

They have 8 people in a 2 bedroom home, 3 men live in the basement with no separate entrance, and block windows. My mother told me, that was against all city fire codes, as she used to work for a fire department as a Paramedic. One lady is literally living on the back porch, where there is no heat.

This court ordered my mom and Mary Rowan to have a case Management meeting at the group home, Mary Rowan was a no show, instead it was her aid, Katie McDonald. My mother took notes. I was present as well; and your honor ordered that the Co-Guardian discuss social services for me. Instead 43 minutes Katie went on and on about SSI and SSD and how she could do a better job as payee than my mother. She further discussed ways she could get more money for me.

Which is good; but was not the purpose of the meeting. I was interested what they could do for me as far as education, and my goals and dreams and ways I can achieve that; which she touched on a little but only after 43 minutes of trying to convince my mother to hand over my SSI to them. I actually walked out of the meeting. No disrespect your Honor, but that was not the intent of the meeting.

Two weeks later my mother recanted her statement at the meeting and told Katie after much thought, she would not sign it over, and I agreed. Katie yelled at her, and threatened her; stating they were going to go to court and tell your Honor that my mother is not a responsible repayee, and state that there is missing paper work, and so on. Which are accusations, as Katie McDonald does not have any of my SSI paper work or information.

Lesa Judkins mug shot

After the home provider Lesa Judkins threatened me more than once, my mother did a background on her and found that Lesa has an extensive criminal history; with the latest known arrest to be in May of 2016 fleeing and eluding police. Lesa has mug shots and criminal complaints all over the internet for scams and fraudulent activities. I have attached that to this petition.

I do not believe Mary Rowan has my best interest, and here are my reasons why:

I never met her, spoke with her only in a court room on July 13th since she has been appointed.

She never showed up to the meeting that THIS court ordered to take place July 14, 2017 @ 2 PM.

She took me from a home I was content in, and put me in a home where I was abused physically and emotionally. Where I was not eating enough, where I was being bitten by bugs every day, where the caregivers and provider offering me pot. Where there are people literally piled on top of each other. Where I was FORCED to pay 600 dollars a month to SHARE a room; where I was, I was only paying 375 dollars for a room all to myself.

Mary Rowan put me in a home against my will, that has been unlicensed and uninspected and FORCED me to pay 600 dollars to a criminal, with serious past charges.

NOT once has she ever shown interest in me, getting to know me, visiting me, spending time with me. Talking with me about my interests and future.

Rowan is seated in darker blue in this photo taken just before she kidnapped Mailauni Williams (r) and held her for six months, not letting her mother Lennette Williams know where she was. Photo by the late Cornell Squires, VOD reporter. RIP.

She contacted the Bureau of  Services for Blind behind our backs and told my counselor that she was now representing me, and I no longer was going to use their agency; which was a flat out LIE! I contacted them back three weeks later and now have things back in progress. Due to her doing that, I am almost a month behind than where I should be in this process.

The only interest that Mary Rowan and her aide have shown is to get my SSI. Or any other monies they think they can get.

Mary Rowan is also currently under investigation for failure to remove a ward in January of 2017 from an unsafe home that burned down, and as a result, that blind vet that was her ward; perished in that fire; THREE months after she was ordered to remove him.

Mary Rowan is also under suspicion and current scrutiny for elderly abuse, neglect, removing wards illegally without court orders, and financial exploitation.

Mary Rowan currently has multiple complaints pending against her currently. (also attached to this petition).

Mary Rowan currently has over 1400 wards. No one can take care of that many. She gets up to 1800 per year per ward, not including any other monies that she gets from estates, and insurance policies, pensions, and SSI or SSD. I feel she is only motivated by money, and not the interests of any of her wards, including myself.

Kristina recuperating after liberation from group home.

I would like to keep Regina Gargus as my permanent guardian, because she has my best interests and always has contrary to their accusations.  Here are the reasons why:

I called and begged my mother to come get me from that group home, and she did. I was scared for my life at that point. I was so traumatized that I felt I was on an edge of a nervous breakdown. My mother got me out just in time; I couldn’t take any more of that place Mary Rowan forced me into.

My mother rescued me from that home, and continued to keep me away from them despite them calling her with threats to force me back there. She refused; she put me before herself, knowing that this court could rule against her.

When I was back in her care, she treated me for all my bed bug bites. (Which you can see pics on our phones).

I had lost 30LBS since May, and my mother spent an entire week nursing me back to health, preparing healthy fully balanced meals, and started me on a vitamin regimen right away. 

My mother stopped payment on Lesa’s rent check for August, and I had to buy all new EVERYTHING. I left most of my belongings because of the bugs.

Blind student at Kalamazoo participates in technology project fair.

My mother still helps me with my shopping, transportation, and doctor’s apts. My mother has done all this for me for the past 5 years going on, and will not stop.

She has me enrolled with services for the blind, and soon I’ll be going to Kalamazoo to learn how to live being blind, and still be independent. Mary Rowan just wants to keep me in her homes, and collect my money. That is not what I want to do with my life, my mother and I know I can do so much more. My mother believes in me, Mary Rowan just sees me as another “ward.”

I am very afraid of Mary Rowan, and what she is capable of doing. I feel she could ruin my life, even more than she already has; especially after what my mother researched.

I am asking your Honor to set a hearing within the required time limits, and to issue an order removing Mary Rowan as Co-Guardian, and make my mother Regina Gargus as my permanent Guardian, as she is the one who truly has my best interest as listed.


                                   Kristina Brockington 8/24/2017

VOD: The Wayne Co. Probate Court website lists this petition as filed, and gives a date of Oct. 12 at 9 a.m. for a hearing. It is unclear at this point if the hearing has been moved up.


Rights of an individual with a guardian:


Powers and duties of a guardian:


Michigan Mental Health Code re: placement of wards with developmental disabilities


Guardianship petitions: Summary under Michigan Law
















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New policies will prevent prisoners from receiving court mailings, newspapers, magazines, books

Could deny constitutionally guaranteed access to courts

Further restricts prisoners’ access to families, outside world

Efren Paredes, Jr.

By Efren Paredes, Jr.

Published August 23, 2017

Today the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) issued a memorandum notifying prisoners and members of the public about new changes being made to the “Prisoner Mail” policy, PD 05.03.118, which should rattle the national conscience.

The changes will be strictly enforced beginning October 1, 2017. According to the memorandum, “Mail received that violates any of these regulations will be returned to the sender and/or rejected by the mailroom staff in accordance with PD 05.03.118.”

The following is the list of new regulations listed in the memorandum: –

  • All mail must be received in WHITE envelopes only;
  • No security features will be permitted. –
  • Padded, cardboard, tear resistant, or similar envelopes will not be allowed. –
  • Stickers of any kind, including return address labels, are prohibited. –
  • Mail containing stains of any type, including but not limited to, perfume, lipstick, oily substances, water marks, body fluids, etc., are not allowed. –
  • Only mail written in blue or black ink or lead pencil is permitted. Mail written in marker, crayon, paint, glitter, chalk, charcoal, or colored inks is not permitted. –
  • Mail must not contain glue/paste or nontransparent tape of any type. –
  • Greeting cards must be no larger than 6″ x 8″, single-fold, commercially produced with no embellishments, including but not limited to, cutouts, jewels, raised areas, etc.

Magazines like this are mailed out with address labels

The above list includes the most restrictive changes ever made to the MDOC “Prisoner Mail” policy. It appears that administrators are making a strong push to discourage the use of U.S. Mail to communicate with prisoners for anything other than sending letters, photographs, and legal correspondence, and encouraging people to use email (Jpay) instead.

Many courts, attorneys, book vendors, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and members of the public use address labels to mail letters to prisoners. According to the new memorandum all these examples of mail will qualify to be rejected. The new policy changes are going to create major mail backlogs at each prison because of this.

There are 41,000 prisoners in Michigan and tens of thousands of citizens who are related to or know prisoners who will be adversely affected by the new policy changes. It is impossible to notify everyone of the mail policy revisions in such a short period of time before the effective date of the changes.

It could also result in prisoners missing court filing deadlines and consequently denial of access to the courts. The MDOC allows members of the public to send prisoners email through their approved email portal which is www.JPay.com. The problem is there are limitations to the mail that can be sent this way and it is very costly, costing $0.20 per page. Document attachments also cannot be sent using this platform.

People who use www.JPay.com are required to set up an account and locate prisoners they would like to write by their prison number. For instance, someone trying to write me using the platform can do so by locating me on the web site with my prison number, “203116”. People can follow the same steps for sending emails to other Michigan prisoners as well, only they enter the prison number of the prisoner they are trying to contact. Letters and emails are vital to rehabilitation.

For families who cannot afford to visit prisoners or the exorbitant price of prisoner phone calls, letters and emails are the only form of communication available to them. It is the only way members of the public can find out how prisoners are doing and remain involved in their lives. This is especially true in the case of prisoners who have served many years behind bars.

It is important that people not allow the new mail restrictions to discourage them from communicating with prisoners. Letters and emails provide hope to prisoners and help them remain tethered to the outside world. In some cases it is their only connection. Mail is one of the most meaningful things in prisoners’ lives and I encourage readers to not reduce sending it.

You are encouraged to circulate this message with as many prisoner family members, friends, and attorneys possible to prevent them from sending prisoners any mail which may contravene the new pernicious MDOC prisoner mail policy restrictions and result in avoidable mail delivery delays. You are welcome to share this message via social media and email.

For those who may view this development as insignificant, I ask you to consider the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, and whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Everyone will be impacted by the new changes at some point because of the persistent uncontrollable growth of mass incarceration.

(Efren Paredes, Jr. is a Michigan prisoner who is a social justice advocate, educator, and blogger. You can learn more about Efren and receive updates about his latest writings by visiting http://www.fb.com/Free.Efren or http://www.TinyURL.com/Efren1016.)

VOD editor: VOD has received a response to this article from Holly Kramer, the Communications Representative for the MDOC, published below. In our response to her, we asked that the clarifications she makes be sent out to all prisoners and their families as well, since the official notice as given to prisoners only contains the language in the story. VOD is aware of the fact that some prisoners have died from the results of drugs sent under mailing labels, although we have not been made aware of other factors Ms. Kramer cites until now.

 From Holly Kramer, MDOC Communications Representative:

I just saw this story and I wanted to take the opportunity to set a few things straight.

This policy only covers personal mail and does not impact legal mail or materials coming from publishers and approved vendors, such as newspapers, books or magazines, or other packages. It will not restrict prisoners’ access to the courts.

While these changes do impose more restrictions on incoming personal mail, they are in line with changes that have been made to policies governing personal mail at institutions across the country.

This was not done to discourage the use of U.S. mail to communicate with prisoners. The reason is, we have been seeing more people attempting to send contraband – particularly controlled substances like suboxone, concealed in personal mail. This is already an issue in our mailrooms, where staff are finding suboxone strips under labels and concealed with the use of colored paper, marker, crayon or other materials.

It is unfortunate that we have to institute changes like this because of those with negative intentions, but it is ultimately for the protection of prisoners under our supervision, as well as staff and visitors. 

When drugs enter our facilities there are a lot of negative implications, including the fact that it creates big issues for the safety and well-being of the prisoner who receives them, as well as others around them.

We have programs at our facilities to help prisoners overcome addictions they may face, and when prisoners gain access to drugs, it only undermines those efforts and can make their path to a successful life in the community more challenging. 

We agree with the writer when he says it is important for people not to let the new mail restrictions discourage them from sending personal mail, and it is indeed important for prisoners to stay connected to their support network, including family and friends.

We sent letters to prisoners and prisoner families, and made information on the change highly visible on our website because we want to give people ample warning and time to adjust to the new requirements before Oct. 1.

It is true that communication with others who can provide positive support to prisoners through letters, email, calls or visits is important for rehabilitation and success in the community. It is equally important for that communication to happen safely.


Holly Kramer

Communications Representative

Michigan Department of Corrections

206 E. Michigan Ave. Lansing, MI

O: (517) 335-3090

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