Video above shows Edward Hood, one of four Black jurors excluded from Timothy Tyrone Foster’s jury through “peremptory” challenges. The Supreme Court did not rule on the lack of Black jurors on the original jury venire, a problem that has existed in Wayne County, Michigan’s courts.
May 23, 2016
Timothy Tyrone Foster, sentenced to death in Georgia at the age of 18.
Washington— The Supreme Court ruled decisively in favor of death-row inmate Timothy Tyrone Foster in Georgia on Monday, chastising state prosecutors for improperly keeping African-Americans off the jury that convicted him of killing a white woman.
The justices ruled 7-1 in favor of death row inmate Foster in underscoring the importance of rules they laid out in 1986 to prevent racial discrimination in the selection of juries.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court that Georgia “prosecutors were motivated in substantial part by race” when they struck African-Americans from the jury pool.
But the court did nothing to limit peremptory strikes, lawyers’ ability to reject potential jurors without offering any reason. The late Thurgood Marshall once said that racial discrimination would persist in jury selection unless peremptory strikes were curtailed.
[Foster, an 18-year-old African-American, was charged in 1986 with killing Queen Madge White, an elderly white woman, in Rome, Georgia. At Foster’s capital trial the following year, the prosecutors used four of their nine peremptory strikes to remove all four black prospective jurors, resulting in an all-white jury to try this racially charged case. They claimed that the strikes were not based on race, asserting eight to twelve “race-neutral” reasons for each. The lead prosecutor later urged the jury to impose a death sentence to “deter other people out there in the projects.”]
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from opinion.
The outcome probably will enable Foster to win a new trial, 29 years after he was sentenced to death.
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying he would have respected the decisions of state judges who sided with prosecutors and rejected Foster’s claims.
When the case was argued in November, the justices did little to hide their distaste for the tactics employed by prosecutors in north Georgia. Justice Elena Kagan said the case seemed as clear a violation “as a court is ever going to see.”
Still, Georgia courts had consistently rejected Foster’s claims of discrimination, even after his lawyers obtained the prosecution’s notes that revealed prosecutors’ focus on the black people in the jury pool. In one example, a handwritten note headed “Definite No’s” listed six people, of whom five were the remaining black prospective jurors.
The sixth person on the list was a white woman who made clear she would never impose the death penalty, according to Foster’s lawyer, Stephen Bright. And yet even that woman ranked behind the black jurors, Bright said.
Prosecutor’s notes on jury selection document.
The court was not persuaded by the state’s argument that the notes focused on black people in the jury pool because prosecutors were preparing to defend against discrimination claims. The Supreme Court’s ruling about race discrimination in jury selection was about a year old when Foster’s case went to trial, the state said. The 1986 decision in Batson v. Kentucky set up a system by which trial judges could evaluate claims of discrimination and the explanations by prosecutors that their actions were not based on race.
“This argument falls flat,” Roberts wrote. He noted that the record shows “a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury.”
Have the times really changed? Lynching of Black man accused of rape in Royston GA around 1935.
Foster’s trial lawyers did not so much contest his guilt as try to explain it as a product of a troubled childhood, drug abuse and mental illness. They also raised their objections about the exclusion of African-Americans from the jury. On that point, the judge accepted prosecutor Stephen Lanier’s explanations that factors other than race drove his decisions. The jury convicted Foster and sentenced him to death.
The jury issue was revived 19 years later, in 2006, when the state turned over the prosecution’s notes in response to a request under Georgia’s Open Records Act.
The name of each potential black juror was highlighted on four different copies of the jury list and the word “black” was circled next to the race question on questionnaires for the black prospective jurors. Three of the prospective black jurors were identified in notes as “B#1,” ‘’B#2,” and “B#3.”
An investigator working for the prosecutors also ranked the black prospective jurors against each other in case if “it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors.”
Henry Montgomery, 17, before sentence of death of in Louisiana in 1986.
VOD editor: George Montgomery was the plaintiff in the historic Montgomery v. Louisiana case
The USSC declared Jan. 25, 2016 that an earlier Supreme Court decision banning life without parole (death in prison) sentences for juveniles was retroactive.
Montgomery was originally sentenced to death in 1968, but his conviction was overturned due to the defense’s allegations of extreme racism during his trial. When will the times change?
Bernie Sanders is pushing fellow Senate Democrats to reject the Puerto Rico debt deal reached by the Obama administration and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) last week — a move that may help trigger fresh opposition to the agreement from the left.
In a letter to Senate colleagues released Monday, Sanders rips the agreement to restructure the island’s $70 billion in debt, arguing that the deal favors Wall Street creditors at the expense of residents in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rican unions earlier called a general strike against government’s austerity measures.
“I am urging the Senate Democratic Caucus to make it clear to the Republican leadership that this legislation is unacceptable and will not be supported by Senate Democrats,” Sanders wrote in the letter to Senate Democrats. “At a time when the people of Puerto Rico are suffering, the legislation introduced in the House would make a terrible situation even worse.”
In particular, Sanders takes issue with a new oversight board created under the legislation to oversee Puerto Rico’s finances because the majority of the seven-member panel would be controlled by Republicans with little input from Puerto Rico citizens. The board will have expansive power over Puerto Rico’s economy.
Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) get two picks each to the oversight board, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) each choose one. President Barack Obama also gets an appointment to the board.
Puerto Rico already has a general poverty rate of 46.2 percent.
“In my view, we must never give an unelected control board the power to make life and death decisions for the people of Puerto Rico without any meaningful input from them at all,” Sanders wrote to his colleagues. “We must not balance Puerto Rico’s budget on the backs of children, senior citizens, the sick and the most vulnerable people in Puerto Rico.”
Sanders also takes aim at a provision that allows the Puerto Rican governor to cut the minimum wage to $4.25 an hour, while giving Wall Street creditors excessive influence over the U.S. territory’s finances. Workers also cannot benefit from the Obama administration’s new overtime rule for workers making less than $47,000 per year.
Lowering the minimum wage does not apply to current workers, however, and will be subject to the oversight board’s approval and be optional for the Puerto Rican governor.
Hedgefund billionaires are trying to murder Puerto Rico.
The deal “looks out for the needs of Wall Street vulture funds first and foremost,” Sanders wrote. “That is unacceptable.”
Sanders has been particularly outspoken on the issue of Puerto Rico’s finances as he campaigns against Hillary Clinton ahead of the island’s June 5 caucuses. Clinching the Democratic nomination is almost mathematically out of reach for Sanders, though he has vowed to stay in the campaign until the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
Sanders released a statement in opposition to the Puerto Rico deal last week, insisting that the United States “must stop treating Puerto Rico like a colony.” Meanwhile, Clinton endorsed the bipartisan deal, although she made it clear that she has “serious concerns” about a handful of provisions in the legislation.
Hillary Clinton endorses Puerto Rican debt deal.
How the caucus reacts to Sanders’ call could also be the first big test of his influence back on Capitol Hill since his surprising success in the Democratic presidential primary. Key Democratic lawmakers have given the deal their seal of approval, including Pelosi.
Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee who helped negotiate the deal, will support the bill despite his own reservations. Grijalva was the first Democrat in Congress to endorse Sanders in the Democratic primary.
Another liberal favorite in the Senate — Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — has also not taken a position on the bill.
Rosie Lewis with her son Charles Lewis in 1977, shortly after his incarceration. He is wearing a T-shirt from a prison band called “The Gospel Cavaliers.”
Hearing in case in front of Judge Qiana Lillard set for May 26, 2016, 9 am
Lewis has long fought for his freedom, claiming actual innocence and citing recent USSC court decisions in Miller v. Alabama, Montgomery v. Louisiana
‘Pure Pleasure’ band alibi witnesses were never produced during his trial
Judge Drain claims his signature was forged on April 3, 2000 order freeing Lewis, but says nothing about clerk’s signature and stamp on same order
Lewis’ court files conveniently disappeared after he filed to have Drain satisfy his judgment
Lewis fighting in Sixth Circuit Court as well
By Diane Bukowski
Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard, appointed to bench by Gov. Rick Snyder
DETROIT—Rosie Lewis has grieved every day for 41 years, as she fights for her son Charles Lewis, now 59, a Michigan juvenile lifer in prison since the age of 17. He is currently undergoing post-conviction hearings in front of Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard, with the next hearing set for Thurs. May 26 at 9 a.m.
Mrs. Lewis nearly breaks into tears after every discussion of her child, yearning for him to return home to the comfort of his family’s arms.
“People do not know what a mother suffers every day knowing their child is unjustly locked up,” Mrs. Lewis told VOD. “I need to write a book about it.”
His attorney Felicia O’Connor of Foley & Lardner is set to argue her motion for withdrawal from Lewis’ case on May 26, allegedly due to differing opinions with her client on trial strategy.
Former head of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s appellate division, Timothy Baughman. He retired in 2015.
Officials who have testified so far said they have been trying to locate three cartons of Lewis’ court records, which mysteriously went missing after a prison counselor gave him a copy of an April 3, 2000 order from Judge Gershwin Drain quashing his conviction and sentence, ten years after the fact, and he filed an “application for satisfaction of judgement.”
At a hearing May 5, documents written in 2012, from then Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Timothy Baughman and then Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Gershwin Drain denying the validity of the April 3, 2000 order and making general allegations of forgery were read into the record. Baughman and Drain did not appear to testify and face cross-examination.
On Jan. 5, 2012, Baughman wrote to Drain, “I am writing in response to your order that we respond to defendant’s ‘application for satisfaction of judgment.’ Defendant attaches an order purportedly signed by you in 2000, more than 11 years ago, granting a motion for relief from judgment and vacating his conviction. This order must be fraudulent.”
Baughman then related the history of Lewis’ numerous court filings since 2000, asking why he would be filing them if he had been freed.
Former pros. Karen Plants, Judge Mary Waterstone.
Baughman concocted the infamous scheme which landed Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s former top drug attorney, Karen Plants, in prison for conspiring with the late Judge Mary Waterstone to conceal the name of an informant from the defense. He has also written numerous pleadings in favor of juvenile life without parole sentences.
“This court has no recollection of signing such an Order nor of handling the Defendant’s Motion for Relief from Judgment,” ruled then Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Gershwin Drain on Jan 18, 2012. The order, ironically, has no copy of his signature. Even the rubber stamped signature used is barely visible.
“Although there are other judges who have handled the Defendant’s file, I did not see my name anywhere in the file as handling anything. . . .This Court believes that the signature on the order submitted by Mr. Lewis is a forgery. . . .More importantly, if in fact this Court had ordered his release back in 2000, why would Defendant have waited 12 years to be released pursuant to that order. It just doesn’t add up. Additionally, a fraudulent register of actions has been prepared or someone has entered our computer system and manipulated entries.”
Rasmea Odeh, Palestinian-American activist whose deportation Judge Gershwin Drain upheld, not allowing testimony about her torture by the Israeli army. His decision has since been overturned.
Apparently Judge Drain had not read Lewis’ account of how he obtained the order, ten years after it was issued. Since Lewis’ court files have mysteriously disappeared, there is currently no way to trace his original motion for relief from judgment and the events which led up to it.
U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Drain to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on August 8, 2012, not long after this order. Drain’s clerk told VOD that Drain still believes the order is fraudulent and has ordered that an investigation be opened.
“What I want to point out for the record is the fact that there are two signatures on the order, Judge Drain’s and a Deputy County Clerk’s signature,” Lewis told VOD in a Jpay email May 23. “The Deputy County Clerk’s signature and stamped certification made the order a valid Court Order. An Order does not become valid until it is signed by the Clerk’s Office, certified by the Clerk’s Office and entered on the Register of Actions. I also want to point out that counsel never read MCR 8.119 or Lapeer County Clerk’s v Lapeer Circuit Court Judges. The Michigan Supreme Court in the Lapeer County Clerk’s case spelled out the duties and responsibilities of the County Clerk. The County Clerk’s office is a gatekeeper for the Court’s they are part of the check and balance system that is in place to ensure that what happened to me does not happen to anyone else.”
Charles Lewis as he appears now, with copy of 2000 court order freeing him.
Determined and unbowed throughout the last 41 years, Lewis has filed hundreds of extremely well-written and legally researched court pleadings in state and federal couts providing substantial evidence that he is actually innocent of the crime that put him in prison. But meanwhile he has lost the major part of his life “in the world,” as prisoners call it, and a budding musical career.
Lewis was 17 on the Saturday evening of July 31, 1976, when off-duty Detroit Police Officer Gerald A. Sypitkowski, 27, was shot to death outside Oty’s Bar on at Harper near Barrett, east of Conner.
Judge Joseph Maher in 1976, the year before Lewis trial. Late Atty. Kenneth Cockrel, Sr. called him a “racist monkey, a honky dog, a racist pirate, and a bandit” in 1969 during New Bethel police raid trial.
Lewis was eventually charged with Sypitkowski’s murder, and tried twice in front of Recorders’ Court Judge Joseph E. Maher. Jurors from his first trial were dismissed without explanation. He was found guilty of first-degree murder in the second trial and sentenced to life without parole.
The late defense attorney Kenneth Cockrel, Sr. called Judge Maher a “racist monkey, a honky dog, a racist pirate, and a bandit,” under his breath, outside the courtroom, in 1969. Maher was hearing the case of Al Hibbitt, one of four defendants in the famous 1969 New Bethel Baptist Church police raid, during which two police officers were killed and all 142 people in the church were arrested.
Maher charged Cockrel with contempt of court, a charge Cockrel, Sr. fought and won after gathering a massive following and using linguists and other experts to prove the accuracy of his words.
At both of Lewis’ trials, the most direct eyewitness, Sypitkowksi’s partner, laid-off officer Dennis Van Fletering, testified that the shots that killed Sypitkowski came from a white Lincoln Mark IV travelling at a high rate of speed with its headlights off. According to transcipts from the second trial, in Rosie Lewis’ possession, he said he saw gun flashes from the car and memorized its license plate number, which he cited in his police report. He also testified that he did not recall seeing any other cars driving on Harper at the time.
Dennis Van Fleteren today, as retired Detroit officer. Facebook
“The automobile [came from] west on Barrett at a high rate of speed and I tried to stop him by waving my hands and the car kept going even faster,” Van Fleteren testified. “We were crouching down and I was trying to direct my full attention toward the license plates.”
He said he then went over to his wounded partner, who had a gunshot wound in the left side of his head. When a police medical transport vehicle arrived at the scene, he rode with his partner to the hospital after a brief disagreement with Officer Lorraine Williams in the car.
The Lincoln Mark IV belonged to Leslie Nathanial of Detroit, reported to be a loan shark in the plant where he worked. Newspaper accounts of the period said Nathanial complained of police harassment and brutality, after police raided his home, arrested its occupants, and destroyed his car, erasing any evidence from that source. Then he got an apology, and was inexplicably released.
Afterwards, Detroit police focused on Lewis and three younger friends, claiming they drove a yellow Gran Torino and shot Sypitkowski in an attempted robbery, either of the bar itself, or of the officer personally. Later the teens testified against Lewis at his trial, bargaining for their own freedom.
Chuck Jackson of “Pure Pleasure” during the 1970’s. He says Lewis was with his band all night the date of Sypitkowski’s death.
But international bass player Chuck Jackson, a founder and member of the musical groups Soulful Sonics and Pure Pleasure, recalls Lewis sitting in with his band all that night of July 31, during an engagement at the UAW Local 212 hall, until the early morning hours. Back then, the hall, whose local originally represented Briggs plant workers, was located at Mack and St. Jean. It was approximately two miles from the site of Sypitkowski’s death. (UAW Local 212 has since relocated to Sterling Heights.)
Jackson said he had a contract with Local 212 for that date.
Lewis’s sister Wendy Lewis, a disabled veteran and mother, was 12 years old when her brother went to prison.
“I was very close to Charles,” she told VOD earlier. “I looked up to him, he was my idol. I tried to follow him everywhere he went. He was a musician who played with various groups back then. Our basement was full of musical instruments. I would sit on the basement steps and listen as so many people practiced with him.”
Jackson told VOD, “[Lewis] wasn’t a band member. He would bring his guitar and amplifer, come to see our guys, and sit in and play. A lot of kids stayed out of trouble that way, following us around, coming to rehearsals and gigs. I still run into a lot of them. We used to play for a lot of clubs.”
Location of Otys bar on Harper, 2 miles from location of former UAW Local 212 hall at St. Jean and Mack.
But, he said, “I never testified at his trials. No one ever contacted me. I never even knew about his arrest at the time.” He said he was horrified to find out about Lewis’ fate after being interviewed by a private investigator for Lewis’ former appeals attorney.
No other members of the band were called in Lewis’ trial as alibi witnesses although Lewis said he told his court-appointed trial attorney M. Arthur Arduin, who he has called a “mob” lawyer in court filings, to contact them. He unsuccessfully asked Judge Maher to remove Arduin.
A 1992 U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unpublished ruling in Lewis’ case said Lewis’ due process rights were violated by the failure to hear alibi witnesses.
The late M. Arthur Arduin in 1990’s; copy of photo from Free Press.
“Lewis is entitled, however, to further review of his claim that trial counsel failed to investigate potential alibi witnesses,” says the Sixth Circuit. “If Lewis is correct when he alleges that his attorney unreasonably failed to investigate alibi evidence, then a constitutional violation may well have occurred. . . .The District Court failed to address this claim in the proceedings below. On remand, the District Court should permit Lewis to present this claim. He appears to have raised it in the state court proceedings although he has not had any ruling.”
Arduin’s original family name was Arduino, and he was a member of the Italian-American Lawyers Club, according to his obituary. At the time, Detroit’s Italian mob was heavily involved in loan-sharking, the purported sideline of Leslie Nathanial.
It is clear from the transcripts of Lewis’ second trial that Arduin did everything he could to sabotage his client’s case, grilling Van Fleteren unmercifully on cross-examination about his drinking the night of his partner’s death, as if to discredit his testimony. Detroit police officer Lorraine Williams, who was at the scene after the killing, testified that Van Fleteren was too intoxicated at the time to have made accurate observations.
The Gospel Cavaliers, band at Ionia Reformatory. Charles Lewis is at right. Photo featured in article on band in Grand Rapids Organizer.
However, during a 1981 “Pearson” evidentiary hearing in Lewis’ case, five other officers at the scene who were not called to testify during Lewis’ second trial all agreed that they noted nothing abnormal about Van Fleteren’s behavior, other than his grief over his partner’s death. One said Williams tried to prevent Van Fleteren from accompanying his partner to the hospital.
“When Van Fleteren testified at the first trial,” said Mrs. Lewis, “he had me in tears because it was clear that his partner’s killing had affected him deeply.”
If he had not been incarcerated for life, Lewis likely would have followed Jackson’s path in carving out a career in the music industry. At Ionia Reformatory, he played in a prison band called the “Gospel Cavaliers,” and later expanded his interests to include the study of journalism. He has written wrote for several prison newspapers, and continues to hone his writing skills, authoring a book and essays in addition to his pro se court pleadings.
Meanwhile, Chuck Jackson and his group became successful and traveled world-wide, with Jackson known as “CJ Styles.” Jackson’s bio under a YouTube video he produced describes the world in which Lewis might have grown up.
“In the early 70’s ‘The Soulful Sonics’ changed their name to ‘Pure Pleasure’. . . .Playing in the ‘chitterlin’ circuit’ like Henery’s Palace, Phelps Lounge, Ben’s High Chapparal, and Ernie D’s Ballroom to name a few, the group soon . . .recorded their first song ‘By My Side,’ which was released in 1983, produced by Charles Jackson and Roderick Brewer on their label QC(Quick Cash) Records.
“The group soon started touring as the opening acts for such acts as Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Bar-Kays, the Dramatics, Al Hudson and Soul Partners, and Enchantment to name a few. Pure Pleasure also embarked on the 1980’s Air Force Tour, in Atlanta, GA , Texas, Okalahoma, Kentucky and Florida. Shortly after, the group broke up. Charles continued on with his musical career, by joining the local band Destination Love. . . .He now tours with the band T.F.O as the backing band for such acts as The Temptations, The Platters, The Jones girls, Jr. Walker and The All-stars, The Floaters and Carl Carlton to name a few….”
No matter the outcome of the hearing in Judge Lillard’s court May 26, Lewis still has other avenues of relief. The U.S. Supreme Court remanded his case back to the Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) effective April 6, 2016, for reconsideration under Montgomery v. Louisiana. The Michigan Supreme Court, however, only put a placeholder “miscellaneous order” in place on its website April 8. The Clerk of the state Supreme Court informed VOD that it is not known when the MSC will take up the case.
U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds
In the recent juvenile lifer case of Raymond Carp, 15 at the time of the alleged crime, the MSC remanded his case back to St. Clair County. Whether that will help or hurt him remains to be seen.
Lewis additionally has hearings ongoing in Federal court. In response to Lewis’ Motion for Relief from Judgment filed Feb. 11, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds issued an order April 26 granting his motion to lift the stay on his case pending the Montgomery decision, and also requiring to state to reply to his contentions regarding the April 3, 2000 court order and other declarations of innocence.
The state filed a motion to dismiss Lewis’ claims regarding Montgomery because it is still pending at the Michigan Supreme Court, stating he has not exhausted his state court remedies. They also attached copies of Baughman’s and Drain’s documents regarding the April 3, 2000 order to dismiss Lewis’ case.
Lewis, who is representing himself in Federal Court, has until the end of the week to answer their claims and a ruling will eventually ensue from Judge Edmunds.
The saying goes, however: JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED! Justice for Charles Lewis has been delayed for 41 years–how much longer? When he and other juvenile lifers return home to their families, AREN’T REPARATIONS DUE?
In Hill v. Snyder, 6th Circuit rejects state statutes, calls for “meaningful and realistic opportunity for release” for all state juvenile lifers
Michigan officials including AG Bill Schuette, Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy have opposed ANY relief for children sent to die in prison
Michissippi GODDAM (variation of Nina Simone’s song)
By Diane Bukowski
May 18, 2016
Henry Hill, Jr., lead plaintiff in Hill v. Snyder; most juvenile lifers are Black men
DETROIT—Over 364 residents of Michigan’s prisons sentenced to die there for crimes committed as children advanced another step towards freedom May 11. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered that “a meaningful and realistic opportunity for release” must be accorded to every juvenile lifer in Michigan, beyond what is allowed by state statutes passed in 2014.
The Sixth Circuit ruling, in the case of Hill v. Snyder, follows two U.S. Supreme Court decisions declaring juvenile life without parole “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore unconstitutional (Miller v. Alabama), and that the Miller decision is retroactive to ALL juvenile lifers (Montgomery v. Louisiana.)
The U.S. Supreme Court said in Montgomery, “Although Miller did not foreclose a sentencer’s ability to impose life without parole on a juvenile, the Court explained that a lifetime in prison is a disproportionate sentence for all but the rarest of children, those whose crimes reflect ‘irreparable corruption.’”
The United States is the only country in the world that sentences children to death in prison. A young Mexican resident of Detroit’s southwest side expressed horror to this writer when told that children in the U.S. face such penalties. Michigan is one of only four states that continued to insist that Miller was not retroactive, and has the second highest per capita population of juvenile lifers in the states.
Judge Bernice Donald
Judge Jane Stranch
Judge Gilbert Merritt
“We vacate the [U.S. District] court’s prior orders to enable the court to address remedies in the context of the new legal landscape and because it is necessary in light of our instructions to allow the parties leave to amend the pleadings,” ordered Sixth Circuit Senior Judge Gilbert Merritt with Judges Jane Stranch and Bernice Donald. “If, for example, plaintiffs file a second amended complaint directly challenging Michigan’s 2014 legislative fixes, there may be no question that the eight plaintiffs the district court previously dismissed are entitled to pursue such a claim.”
The Sixth Circuit also suggested that U.S. District Court Judge Corbett O’Meara, who ruled Nov. 26, 2013 that all Michigan juvenile lifers are eligible for parole after serving 10 years, might want to formalize the class action status of his ruling, even though it is not legally necessary.
The state has continued to insist that it only applied to the eight plaintiffs, Henry Hill, Jemal Tipton, Damion Todd, Bobby Hines, Kevin Boyd, Bosie Smith, Jennifer Pruitt, Matthew Bentley, Keith Maxey, Giovanni Casper, Jean Carlos Cintront, Nicole DuPure, and Dontez Tillman.
“This recent Sixth Circuit Court opinion is great news,” said Edward Sanders of Detroit, who has been incarcerated for 41 years since 1976 at the age of 17, for a drive-by killing in which he was not the shooter. “It noted that the U.S. District Court Judge did a very good job. It sent the case back before that court to allow the parties to start over with filing new briefs.
“We can now address concerns we may have with the [state statutes],” Sanders continued. “This is a good thing to start over again and with the same judge. The State should have moved on this matter long ago.”
Michigan’s legislature passed MCL 769.25a in 2014 in the event that the U.S. Supreme Court declared Miller retroactive. The statute said in part, “prosecutors in each county have 180 days from the date of the retroactivity decision to file a motion seeking re-imposition of LWOP in selected cases. If they do not file such a motion, the defendant must be re-sentenced to a minimum term of 25 to 40 years, with a maximum term set at 60 years. Prisoners who have served more than 20 years are given priority for re-sentencing. See http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/Juvenile-lifers-mcl-769-25a.pdf.
Deborah LaBelle is the attorney who with the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union first brought the Hill v. Snyder lawsuit in the Eastern District of Michigan federal court in 2010.
Juvenile lifer Edward Sanders
“After Montgomery, the state moved to dismiss their appeal [of O’Meara’s ruling] in the Sixth Circuit, arguing that the issue was now moot, as they had cured the unconstitutional sentences with the legislation, which now took effect . . . ” she told VOD.
“We said that the legislation did not cure the constitutional violations found by Judge O’Meara and was not an appropriate remedy . . . the Sixth Circuit’s order is pretty much what we requested. They recognized that his [O’Meara’s] ruling applied to all youth (and said if the state disagreed he should consider certifying the class), returned the case to Judge O’Meara to decide what needed to be done to actually provide a meaningful and realistic opportunity for release as required by Montgomery and Miller. They specifically allowed us to amend the complaint to add our claims that the [state] statute is unconstitutional.”
LaBelle said the plaintiffs are considering one amendment in particular, given that Judge O’Meara ordered the parole process instead of re-sentencing.
Attorney Deborah LaBelle
“Michigan has a parole process, albeit one that the District Court agreed was flawed absent some changes to address the unique requirements for youth entitled to second chances– with Miller factors guiding the appropriate punishment,” she noted. “I think a separate or extended parole board is the answer— without the public hearing mechanism, as [the current parole process] does not give anyone a meaningful and realistic opportunity for release. This is what needs to be developed.”
In another development in the case of juvenile lifer Charles Lewis, VOD discovered that the U. S. Supreme Court vacated his sentence and remanded it to the Michigan Supreme Court for re-consideration under the Montgomery decision, effective April 6. On April 8, the state Supreme Court website indicates that court issued a “miscellaneous” order, with no linked document, but the website goes on to reiterate that his case is closed.
Lewis had filed a state appeal of his sentence after the Miller decision, but it was rejected due to the state’s claim at the time that Miller was not retroactive. VOD has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for a copy of the April 8 MSC order, as well as other related documents. (A separate story on Lewis’ unique case is forthcoming shortly. He has another post-conviction hearing scheduled for May 26, 2016 at 9 a.m. in front of Judge Qiana Lillard.)
Juvenile lifer Charles Lewis
Sanders sadly noted earlier that Michigan’s second-longest serving juvenile lifer, Rogers Walker of Detroit, passed after being incarcerated since 1965 and surviving cancer. He said they were in prison together during a stretch at Lapeer.
“He was hoping to go home after the U.S. Supreme Court [Miller] ruling,” said Sanders, “but Allah knows best. From Allah we come, to Allah we return.”
Walker’s death emphasized the cruelty of the lengthy process to which the State of Michigan has subjected its juvenile lifers. They at first celebrated after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed their sentences, but have been in limbo since.
VOD requested comments from Michigan Attorney General (AG) Bill Schuette and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan last week regarding the Sixth Circuit Hill v. Snyder decision but has received no response. It was last reported that county prosecutors had already begun the process described in the state statutes, which have now been invalidated. The state has filed no appeal to date of the Sixth Circuit order.
Maria Miller of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office deferred comment on the Sixth Circuit order to the Attorney General, and declined to comment on the Lewis case because it is “still in litigation.”
Both Maduro, Roussef champions of poor, workers, opponents of U.S. policies
U.S., global banks, oil corporations, others behind attacks
Editor: While the people of the U.S. are blindly involved in national elections, NO candidate offers a platform that would withdraw U.S. troops and U.S. economic blockades and pressure from virtually every country across the globe.Now Venezuela, Brazil, and the rest of Latin America are under the gun.
May 14, 2016
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared a 60-day state of emergency on Friday due to what he called plots from within the OPEC country and the United States to topple his leftist government.
Maduro did not provide details of the measure. A previous state of emergency, implemented in states near the Colombian border last year, suspended constitutional guarantees in those areas, except for guarantees relating to human rights.
Protest against U.S. intervention in Venezuela Sat. May 14, 2016. Sign calls U.S. Pres. Obama an assassin, fascist, and imperialist.
Earlier on Friday, U.S. intelligence officials told reporters they were increasingly worried about the potential for an economic and political meltdown in Venezuela and predicted Maduro was not likely to complete his term. [VOD: Telesur reported, “U.S. President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order March 9, 2015 declaring a ‘national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela.” See story at http://www.telesurtv.net/english/telesuragenda/US-Threats-on-Venezuela-20150311-0012.html.]
Venezuela’s opposition is seeking to recall the unpopular leader, 53, amid a worsening crisis that includes food and medicine shortages, frequent power cuts, sporadic looting and galloping inflation.
Protester’s sign says: I want Maduro.
But the former union leader and bus driver has vowed to stick out his term, and accuses the United States of fomenting an undercover coup against him. He pointed to this week’s impeachment of fellow leftist Dilma Rousseff in Brazil as a sign that he is next.
“Washington is activating measures at the request of Venezuela’s fascist right, who are emboldened by the coup in Brazil,” Maduro said during a Friday night broadcast on state television.
Washington has had an acrimonious relationship with Caracas for years, especially following U.S. support for a short-lived 2002 coup against late leader Hugo Chavez.
Pres. Maduro during celebration of Pres. Hugo Chavez’s revolutionary history.
Venezuela’s ruling Socialist Party has long been a strong ally of Rousseff’s Workers Party, however, and her departure adds to Maduro’s isolation in Latin America.
Flanked by his ministers and a statue of Chavez, Maduro signed a state of emergency and extend a state of economic emergency to protect the country from foreign and domestic “threats,” without providing details.
Venezuela’s opposition, which scoffs at Maduro’s accusations of coups-mongering, quickly condemned the measure.
“Today Maduro has again violated the constitution,” said opposition lawmaker Tomas Guanipa. “Why? Because he is scared of being recalled.”
(Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Alexandra Ulmer; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer)
BRAZIL IMPEACHMENT: PRES. DILMA ROUSSEF CONDEMNS ‘COUP,’ AND ‘FARCE’
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has condemned the move to impeach her as a “coup” and a “farce”, denying she has committed any crimes.
She was addressing the nation on TV for the first time since senators voted overnight to suspend her for budgetary violations and put her on trial.
Ms Rousseff vowed to fight the “injustice” by all legal means.
Vice-President Michel Temer will assume the presidency while Ms Rousseff’s trial takes place.
Pres. Dilma Roussef celebrates opening of new workers housing.
The trial may last up to 180 days, which would mean Ms Rousseff would be suspended during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which start on 5 August.
Senators had voted to suspend her by 55 votes to 22 after an all-night session that lasted more than 20 hours.
Ms. Rousseff is accused of illegally manipulating finances to hide a growing public deficit ahead of her re-election in 2014.
In her TV speech, flanked by ministers at the presidential palace, Mr Rousseff said that she may have made mistakes but had committed no crimes, adding: “I did not violate budgetary laws.”
Protest supports Pres. Roussef as she leaves on suspension.
She said: “What is at stake is respect for the ballot box, the sovereign will of the Brazilian people and the constitution.”
Branding the process “fraudulent” and saying her government was “undergoing sabotage”, she vowed to fight the charges against her and said she was confident she would be found innocent.
Michel Temer became interim president as soon as Ms Rousseff was suspended.
The 75-year-old law professor of Lebanese origin was Ms. Rousseff’s vice-president and was a key figure in the recent upheaval.
Michel Temer’s new cabinet is composed of all-white males for the first time in decades.
Up until now, he’s been the kingmaker, but never the king, having helped form coalitions with every president in the past two decades
He is president of Brazil’s largest party, the PMDB, which abandoned the coalition in March.
In recent months, his role has become even more influential; in a WhatsApp recording leaked in April, he outlined how Brazil needed a “government to save the country”.
Ms Rousseff, 68, accused the opposition of leading the impeachment because they had vehemently opposed all the advances she and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, had made for the Brazilian poor and lower middle classes.
After her speech she left the presidential palace and shook hands with supporters lining the pathway.
In another speech outside she told supporters she could feel their “love and energy” on what she called a “tragic” day for the country.
Dilma Roussef, age 22, during military hearing. She was tortured by the government then, but said her ouster this time is worse than that torture.
Michel Temer is set to be sworn in later on Thursday and he is expected to give a speech and present some of his cabinet.
During the overnight debate, Senator Jose Serra, tipped to become the new foreign minister, said the process was “a bitter though necessary medicine”.
“Having the Rousseff government continue would be a bigger tragedy,” he said.
Brazil is suffering from its worst recession in 10 years, unemployment reached 9% in 2015 and inflation is at a 12-year high.
The 180 days allocated for the trial to take place expire on 8 November.
Stories related to U.S., neo-imperialist attacks on Venezuela, Brazil, Latin and Central American countries:
Teachers shut DPS May 2, 3 not only over pay threats, but dismantling of nation’s largest majority-Black school district
Race a central issue—DFT President Ivy Bailey
“Rise up to defend jobs, schools, children, strike to win”—Former DFT pres. Steve Conn
Senate, House bills all destroy Detroit Public Schools, pay off banks
By Diane Bukowski
May 6, 2016
DPS students stress Snyder plan to dismantle DPS is focus of sick-out May 2. /Mlive
DETROIT – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s racist plan to obliterate the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) district by July 1, forcing city residents to pay off $3.9 billion in operating and bonded debt incurred under state control, is the common denominator of legislation just passed in both chambers of the Michigan Legislature.
It is also a chief factor underlying the massive teacher “sick-outs” of May 2 and 3, which shut down 94 of 97 schools left in a district which once had 261 schools, and educated 92 percent of the city’s children, not the 42 percent left today. DPS has the second highest number of charter schools in the U.S., after New Orleans, which have drained billions from its per-pupil funding, mostly for profit.
In an “Open Letter to the Detroit Community” May 4, Judge Rhodes said regarding the sick-outs, “[this] unfortunate and unnecessary strike … threatens the community’s ability to achieve our shared goal of a new, locally governed DPS that can give our students the best possible education.”
DPS EM Steven Rhodes roller skates with grandkids in seaside resort hometown of Cape May, N.J., 90 percent white with median family income of over $50,000
He added that the actions kept 45,000 children out of school, depriving them of free breakfasts and lunches, and inconveniencing their parents.
He did not address the issue of the genocide committed on the total of 167,000 students who attended DPS in 1994.
That number has dwindled as over 164 DPS schools closed under orders from a succession of state-appointed CEO’s and Emergency Managers under Governors Engler, Granholm and Snyder, and hundreds of thousands of Detroit homes housing these children were foreclosed through illegal mortgage and taxation scams.
“This is not just about our teachers, it is about the destruction of DPS,” Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) President Ivy Bailey told VOD May 4. “It shouldn’t just be on back of the educators who work here to take on this fight. The entire city needs to get involved.
Detroit Federation of Teachers President Ivy Bailey addresses teachers outside the school district’s headquarters, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
“The plan is to split our school system. This is an atrocity. Detroiters’ tax money will be going to pay off the debt for schools we don’t even have any more. We want a fully elected and empowered school board, and to keep our system the way it is. The bigger question is why is this happening to Detroit? They don’t want to call it an issue when it comes to race—why not? What’s the problem? We were in better shape under our elected school board than we are now are under an EM.”
DPS’ students are approximately 88 percent Black, while the city has a child poverty rate of 59 percent, the highest in the U.S. Detroit also has the second highest number of charter schools in the country after New Orleans, which have drained billions from the DPS budget. New Orleans itself is 58.8 percent African-American, down from 66.7 percent in 2000.
The white power structure used Hurricane Katrina to shut down the city’s public schools, housing and health systems, and relocate thousands of Blacks out of the city after Katrina.
Bailey referred to packages of bills in both the State Senate and State House that would terminate the Detroit school district effective July 1. A skeleton structure would remain solely to pay off the district’s debt with millages and property taxes. The amount will increase under provisions providing for “re-financing” of that debt, meaning stretching it out over a longer term, with higher interest rates. It will mean property tax increases and more millage votes.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan
A “community school district” including the population of charter schools in Detroit, answering to the State Financial Review Board created under the Detroit bankruptcy plan, would replace DPS. Both its Superintendent and Chief Financial Officer would be appointed by the state. Elections for a new school board would be held this August, but under the House version of the plan, it would not take power until Jan. 2018, after a board appointed by Snyder and Mayor Mike Duggan assumes duties for the community district meanwhile.
Despite the uproar about the massive debt DPS has incurred under state control, its ability to take on more debt would be expanded under both sets of bills.
During previous years, DPS debt, payment of which is controlled by the New York Mellon Bank through a state-appointed trustee, has taken the largest portion of per-pupil aid provided by the State of Michigan through mandated debt set-asides. (Chart below provides an example.) Add to that the fact that per-pupil aid is set by the amount of property taxes each district pays, with the wealthier districts getting a proportionately larger share of the pie.
“The state should have the responsibility for all the debt incurred under emergency managers and state-appointed CEO’s since the 1999 takeover,” Bailey said. “We also want a forensic audit, but Rhodes said the district doesn’t have money to do that. The state should want to find out where all the money went. All teachers want to do is work for a school system they can trust, that respects teachers, and puts its students first.”
Demands raised in “STAY OUT TO WIN” flier by EON/BAMN Caucus.
What the Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) calls a “lock-out,” precipitated by Emergency Manager Steven Rhodes’ order to stop teachers’ pay June 30, ended May 4.
Rhodes verbally withdrew the attack on teachers who prorate their paychecks through the summer months, and followed up with a vague written statement saying teachers are “legally entitled to be paid in full” for their work, and that DPS “will honor that legal obligation.”
Steven Conn, a long-time DPS math teacher at Cass Technical High School, was recently ousted as DFT President but is appealing that action to the International Union. He and a “Strike to Win” faction among the teachers are calling for the strike to continue until Snyder’s plan is defeated.
After Katrina, state officials in Louisiana created a highly unsuccessful all charter-school district for New Orleans, known as the “Recovery School District.” Conn and others fear that is the veiled intention of the Snyder plan for DPS.
“Certainly the teachers are very angry,” he said. “Their expectations during the sick-out went well beyond just getting paid for what they had to get paid for anyway. We have to translate it into defeating the Snyder plan.”
Former DPS Pres. Steve Conn, 2nd from left, and other board members sworn in Jan. 20, 2015.
He said he believes that the DFT leadership and Randy Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, are supporting the Senate version of Snyder’s plan, which does not include the wholesale anti-union provisions of the House version, passed yesterday, although it still includes the dissolution of DPS and pay-outs to the banks.
“They want to get their union dues, and are criminals for selling members down the drain,” Conn said. “Why would they trust Rhodes’ statement—he is a professional liar, and an agent of a governor who is a professional liar. The more we pull punches, the harder it gets to fight. Teachers are not bluffing. I think they feel they can organize themselves. The sick-outs [earlier sick-outs took place in January to protest school conditions] are an expression of power that’s still there.”
A flier distributed by the Equal Opportunity Now/By Any Means Necessary Coalition concludes, “Today, in the wake of the Flint and Detroit water crises, Gov. Snyder is the most unpopular and weakest government in modern Michigan history. His own party has deserted him. It would be ridiculous for the DFT to prop up his political corpse and help him get his essentially dead plan through the State Legislature. The power of, by and for the Black, Latino and working people of Detroit holds the only possibility of solving our fundamental problems. (See full flier at http://voiceofdetroit.net/wp-content/uploads/BAMN-flier-Stay-Out-May3-v2.pdf.
City of Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant workers on strike Sept. 30, 2012. Hundreds of DWSD workers have been laid off since the bankruptcy. Staff at the WWTP is down to a skeleton crew, endangering the health of all DWSD water users.
The EON/BAMN flier is reminiscent of the last ditch efforts of Local 207 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) to save the City of Detroit through a 2012 wildcat strike at the Wastewater Treatment Plant which they hoped would generate a city-wide walk-out.
Their efforts were sabotaged by AFSCME Council 25’s top leadership including Pres. Al Garrett, his assistant Ed McNeil, and Staff Representative Catherine Phillips.
These “leaders” did not even bother to attend the funerals of militant long-time local leaders who died too early under the stress of battle. They included Local 207 President John Riehl, who died at the age of 62 in 2015, and Bus Mechanics Local 312 President Leamon Wilson, who died at the age of 55 the year before.
The lessons of the Detroit bankruptcy have not stopped the Snyder/Rhodes “Hurricane Katrina” roaring towards DPS, after destroying the City of Detroit under Rhodes’ Chapter 9 bankruptcy plan.
City retirees protest outside Judge Rhodes bankruptcy hearing Aug. 19, 2013.
Under that plan, city workers lost not only large parts of their pensions, pay and benefits, but residents lost nearly all the city’s assets, including the $6 billion Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.
The city’s creditors walked off with 95.9 percent of their original claims, including lucrative assets like the Joe Louis Arena, the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, and other riverfront property, while retirees got an average of 13.5 percent of their claims. (See chart below.) The city’s after bankruptcy debt climbed 300 percent.
The Senate and House are haggling over which set of bills is more pro-charter. The House versions, passed May 4, have numerous anti-union provisions in them, including the use of non-certified teachers, the elimination of seniority considerations, non-recognition of the unions after the takeover, severe penalties for teachers who conduct “sick-outs,” and a prohibition against a federal audit of the DPS budget. The latest version of House Bill 5384 adds a $250,000 appropriations clause to make it referendum-proof.
Kidnapped African woman learns to read after abolition of slavery.
The Senate versions of the bills include a seven-member advisory “Detroit Education Committee” appointed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, which will have the power to site both public and charter schools. The so-called “Coalition for the Future of Detroit’s Schoolchildren,” led by the Rev. Wendell Anthony, who supported the Detroit bankruptcy plan as a trustee of the Detroit General Retirees System, and Walbridge Aldinger CEO John Rakolta, a firm supporter of Gov. Snyder, has called for the passage of the Senate bills.
The final legislative battle is boiling down to a battle between Republicans vs. Democrats, with neither offering a genuine solution to revive and restore the Detroit Public Schools district and the future of Detroit’s children. DPS was founded in 1842, around the time that kidnapped Africans across the country fought slavery during the Civil War and built public schools during the Reconstruction Era after the War. Their struggle established a large part of the groundwork for the public school system nationally.
After all, kidnapped Africans were lynched for learning to read and write, for educating themselves. Many Detroiters feel the destruction of the Detroit Public Schools District is nothing but another mass lynching, genocide carried out against Detroit’s Black population.
Editorial/interview by VOD Staff Writer Cornell Squires, co-authored by investigative journalist David Schied
May 1, 2016
As I write what is found below, I am reminded of the interview I had several weeks ago in the living room of Jann DeBacker’s daughter, Shannon DeBacker. It was a shared investigation with me working in the capacity and purpose of my not-for-profit entity of “We the People for the People,” and David Schied, a fully-credentialed Michigan schoolteacher, an investigative journalist and co-founder with me of RICO Busters.
In her living room, Shannon DeBacker presented us with compelling testimony and a plethora of evidence, some so graphically sickening that we thought it better to protect the privacy of her disabled child, about whom this story concerns. It is with that past personal knowledge and first-hand access to the evidence of the reported prolonged sexual abuse of this disabled child that I provide an update of this situation by publishing the results of my latest interview this past Friday with Shannon DeBacker’s mother, Jannice DeBacker.
I thus write this story with feverish urgency and the need to rally the American public in defense of this defenseless and precious human being, by expounding upon the outcries of this child’s mother and grandmother.
Just this past Friday, April 29, 2016, Wayne County’s Third Circuit Court held a “Show Cause” hearing in the case of “Shannon Debacker vs Michael Lewis,” Case No. 09-154554-DS.
Jann DeBacker, the mother of Shannon DeBacker, was the only person attending that hearing to support her daughter. She watched with horror in the courtroom as her daughter Shannon was falsely charged with “contempt of court” by Judge Martha Snow. Her daughter was then handcuffed, escorted out of the court, locked up, and falsely imprisoned for the first time in her life….all because Shannon had declined the judge’s appointment of an attorney; and because Shannon had insisted instead on presenting herself to the court as a natural and sane person!
Jann DeBacker said, “What is insane in this situation is the way the ‘judge’ herself is acting in the context of the serious nature of this case.”
She said her daughter has been forced to endure a long history of past attorneys which she claims have sold her out and cut deals with this and other various judges off the record and inside of the judges’ chambers. Thus, Shannon DeBacker no longer trusts attorneys.
“I honestly believe that most attorneys – at least most operating here in Michigan courts – have ‘sold their souls to the devil,’” she added.
Before being sentenced to jail by this so-called “judge” Snow, Jann’s daughter Shannon had tried reasoning with the court. She had stated numerous times before that she has been double-crossed repeatedly already by attorneys, and that she doesn’t trust any attorney with this particular case because it is so serious.
“This judge” she continued, “completely ignores the fact that my granddaughter’s life – Janna Lewis’s life – has been and remains perpetually in severe imminent danger!”
Jann DeBacker is the grandmother of Janna Lewis. She says she supports her daughter Shannon DeBacker because she knows firsthand that this court case is really about the settlement of an accompanying case.
That is a multi-million dollar medical malpractice lawsuit against the medical community for her granddaughter being born clinically dead and only being revived to the point of having to live with worst type of Cerebral Palsy for the rest of her life.
“These never-ending court cases have been ruining all of our lives – that of my daughter and granddaughter and me – for the past five years,” she stated.
Essentially, the actual reason why so many Charter County of Wayne “government usurpers,” as RICO-Busters calls them, are against Shannon DeBacker today is because her daughter, Janna Lewis, has this huge civil action pending.
It all started weeks prior to Janna’s birthdate of July 15, 2009 when Shannon had gone to Oakwood Hospital Emergency room in full term pregnancy. While she was there, the doctors and medical staff induced labor but Shannon was ultimately sent home before delivery. At home, a rupture occurred and as a result, Baby Janna was deprived of oxygen. She was next subject to a botched surgical procedure and born with cerebral palsy.
For the past few years since Janna’s birth, the court and other “government actors” have been incrementally and systematically taking custody away from Shannon DeBacker under false pretenses. They have been constructing a fraudulent paper trail of lies and covering up the alleged criminal activity of the baby’s father, Michael Lewis, so as to bring the case to a final conclusion that neither parent is fit to manage the life and the lucrative malpractice settlement money.
In essence, these attorneys, as “officers of the courts,” the judges, referees, social workers, guardian ad litems, conservators, and investigators hired by or appointed by the probate court, have long been stealing the proceeds of this massive lawsuit, something that happens much more frequently than anyone wants to admit in large settlement civil cases such as this one.
The facts behind all this prove that this “court” is nothing more or less than the alter-ego of this “judge” Martha Snow. It isn’t about the physical health, welfare or safety of Jann DeBacker’s disabled granddaughter, Janna Lewis. It is all about who controls the money that is being legally designated to the judge’s cronies for covering Mrs. DeBacker’s granddaughter’s future health, welfare and safety.
We can prove that state “actors” operating the Wayne County Circuit Court have a multi-decade history of covering up court cases and hiding facts in courts cases such as Shannon’s and Janna’s medical malpractice cases involving large sums of money. (See the 30-year history of the Wayne County Probate Court case of Lynnette and Mailauni Williams.)
Mailauni and Lennette Williams relax at home after she was returned to her mother subsequent to a 6-month kidnapping. Mailauni also suffers from cerebral palsy, and was expected to live no more than a few months. With her mother’s nurturing, she has graduated from high school and is now 32 years old.
Thus, Martha Snow presents much more than a simple “appearance of impropriety” defining “judicial misconduct;” she is clearly operating this court with unclean hands, using it and using Shannon’s daughter and Jann’s granddaughter as a “payback” tool for lining the pockets of her cronies.
“She needs to be held liable for covering up the criminal activity of my disabled daughter’s sexual perpetrator; and for ordering my grandbaby’s perverted father to instead have temporary custody over my granddaughter while criminally ordering my daughter Shannon to a weekend of false imprisonment,” cried Jann DeBacker during the interview.
Judge Martha Snow showed favoritism to the father Michael Lewis in court on Friday simply because he has an attorney, Audrey C. Stroia (P-21098) and Shannon DeBacker has no attorney!
From Toledo Children’s Hospital
The underlying fact is that this “judge” Martha Snow did like other Wayne County judges Arthur Lombard and Christopher Dingell did on this case for previously years, not investigating the father’s past history and continuing to conspire in covering up Shannon DeBacker’s old and new evidence and allegations of specific sexual abuse, the Debackers say.
In previous years, Arthur Lombard and Christopher Dingell continued to order shared custody between mother and father despite all the facts and evidence being brought to their attention by Shannon DeBacker and her mother.
“Last Friday, Martha Snow deliberately put my granddaughter in harm’s way,” Mrs. DeBacker continued. “She put Janna’s most dedicated advocate, her mother, in the county jail and handed over temporary custody for the entire weekend to the [alleged] perpetrator. This judge knows very well that my and husband and I are licensed foster home caretakers.”
The pattern and practice (#2) of Wayne County “agents” is to thwart their duties in law enforcement and in the judiciary. Examples: Even their own (Southgate PD) police officer (Grondin) reported that Janna Lewis had revealed directly to him that her father “kisses” her vagina. Officer Grondin also said he watched the “disturbing” videos Shannon DeBacker had turned over as evidence she had downloaded from Michael Lewis’ own cell phone camera. Yet “for some reason” that even Ofcr. Grodin could not figure out, the reports are not being taken seriously by the detective’s bureau” and Officer’s Grodin’s report was merely “placed (by whom) into the case file.”
The pattern and practice (#3) – If Janna can’t convey it herself, the government usurpers employed as corporate agents of the Charter County of Wayne simply “see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.” Example: “Michael Lewis’ criminal history?……..What criminal history?”
Grandma Jann DeBacker said Lewis’ activity – and its cover-up – has been ongoing since 2011, and is supported by credible evidence and an abundance of pictures and incriminating videos. “My granddaughter been crying out for help; and my daughter is now jailed for trying to bring attention to these sexual abuses by Michael Lewis,” Mrs. DeBacker exclaimed.
Jann stated that both she and Shannon have been praying for help, been pleading for help, both have been ignored by law enforcement and child protective agencies, been ignored by many of the state insurance mandated doctors and medical facilities, been ignored by judges and even ignored by the mainstream media.
“I and my daughter contacted the State Agencies Child Protective Services and Monroe Police Department in 2015 and our complaints were ignored. We also contacted the Southgate and Taylor police departments,” she added.
“I contacted Detective Cole today at court when my daughter was being arrested because he had an appointment for Janna scheduled with ‘Kids Talk’ on May 5, 2016; but we needed help today! I now feel that my granddaughter and daughter are both in imminent danger. I called Detective Grodin last year and he corroborated our allegations to a C.P.S worker who knew about these crimes yet denied an investigation of these allegations. But we needed help today! I now feel that my granddaughter and daughter are both in imminent danger. I called Detective Grodin last year and he corroborated our allegations to a C.P.S worker who knew about these crimes yet denied an investigation of these allegations. But the court still has granted custody this weekend to Janna’s father today….even despite the proof of his sexual exploits.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Martha Snow to the bench.
The rallying public needs to ask what more evidence there is to draw the links in the “chain” of association between the criminal conduct of Michael Lewis, accused of cowardly acting in the darkness and privacy of his home, and the criminal conduct of Martha Snow, accused of usurping judicial power and authority in open court.
What reasoning can we attribute to this treasonous activity by the judge appointed to the bench by the very same Michigan governor (Snyder) that is now being petitioned for recall from office and possibly facing prison time for his part in turning a blind eye on the poisoning of the entire population of Flint? Perhaps there is something to the saying about “birds of a feather flock together?”
We already know the links between Snyder’s appointment of Martha Snow to the judicial bench, and between Martha Snow and her “mentor” Audrey Stroia, the attorney defending Michael Lewis as the child’s alleged sexual predator in a custody battle over the welfare of this child. So let’s turn our attention to other questionable “links” in this chain conspiracy to deny due process to Shannon DeBacker and to cover-up to years of alleged sexual exploitation being carried out against his own daughter by the man known to have a mental health diagnosis of “schizophrenia.”
Michael Lewis’ “schizophrenia” is being treated by Dr. Thomas Pinson. “Dr.” Pinson is currently on “probation” by the Medical Board for “incompetence,” “negligence,” and other forms of substandard care.
Dr. Thomas Pinson
Moreover, Lewis’ doctor, Thomas Pinson, is believed to be the very same person who in 1988 was criminally charged with sixteen (16) counts of receiving stolen property and providing a pole barn for an auto “chop-shop” operation/ As shown above on the document bearing Pinson’s signature below Lewis’ diagnosis, he either does or did operate his medical “practice” at 13636 Dix Toledo Rd. in Southgate, Michigan 48195.
Note that according to Dun & Bradstreet, that place of business, “City Medical, PC,” is showing a lucrative $1,200,000.00 annual income. Interestingly however, it appears that office is shared with someone carrying the very same last name as Michael Lewis’ attorney and Judge Martha Snow’s “mentor.” She is a chiropractor by the name of Susan Stroia. Even more interesting is the fact that Stroia and Pinson appear to be more than business partners in City Medical, PC; they appear to be husband and wife.
So besides the obvious fanfare of friendship, cronyism and nepotism between “judicial usurper” Martha Snow, her mentor Audrey Stroia, and Stroia’s mega-successful daughter and son-in-law, and Stroia’s client, Michael Lewis, why else might Snow be catering favorably and providing “preferential treatment” to attorney Audrey Stroia?
Wouldn’t it be because she is an ESTATE PLANNING expert? In sum, the corporate and state “players” operating the Wayne County Circuit Court are keenly aware of Janna Lewis’ disability and the fact that a multi-million dollar civil case was filed and is soon scheduled to reach a final court settlement after more than five years of state takeover and criminal cover-up!
For the past few years since Janna’s birth, the court and other “government actors” have been incrementally and systematically taking custody away from Shannon DeBacker under false pretenses. They have been constructing a fraudulent paper trail of lies and covering up criminal activity of the baby’s father, Michael Lewis, so to bring the case to a final conclusion that neither parent is fit to manage the life and the lucrative malpractice settlement money.
In essence, these attorneys, as “officers of the courts,” the judges, referees, social workers, guardian ad litems, conservators, and investigators hired by or appointed by the probate court, have long been already stealing the proceeds of this massive lawsuit, something that happens much more frequently than anyone wants to admit in large settlement civil cases such as this one.
The facts behind all this prove that this “court” is nothing more or less than the alter-ego of this “judge” Martha Snow. It isn’t about the physical health, welfare or safety of Jann DeBacker’s disabled granddaughter, Janna Lewis. It is all about who controls the money that is being legally designated to the judge’s cronies for covering Mrs. DeBacker’s granddaughter’s future health, welfare and safety.
Thus, Martha Snow presents much more than a simple “appearance of impropriety” defining “judicial misconduct;” she is clearly operating this court with unclean hands, using it and using Shannon’s daughter and Jann’s granddaughter as a “payback” tool for lining the pockets of her cronies.
Atty. Audrey Stroia of Stroia & Associates specializing in estate planning/Facebook photo.
“She needs to be held liable for covering up the criminal activity of my disabled daughter’s sexual perpetrator; and for ordering my grandbaby’s perverted father to instead have temporary custody over my granddaughter while criminally ordering my daughter Shannon to a weekend of false imprisonment,” cried Jann DeBacker during the interview.
So besides the obvious fanfare of friendship, cronyism and nepotism between “judicial usurper” Martha Snow, her mentor Audrey Stroia, and Stroia’s mega-successful daughter and “incompetent” son-in-law, and Stroia’s client, Michael Lewis, why else might Snow be catering favorably and providing “preferential treatment” to attorney Audrey Stroia? Wouldn’t it be because she is an ESTATE PLANNING expert?
In sum, the corporate and state “players” operating the Wayne County Circuit Court are keenly aware of Janna Lewis’ disability and the fact that a multi-million dollar civil case was filed and is soon scheduled to reach a final court settlement after more than five years of state takeover and criminal cover-up!
Jann DeBacker told VOD,
“I know my daughter Shannon loves her disabled daughter more than anyone in this world would ever imagine. She was and will remain willing to do whatever is needed to stop the sexual exploitation of her daughter Janna by the child’s medically-diagnosed-as-schizophrenic father with a well-documented criminal history. Though Shannon has no criminal history whatsoever before now, she has shown that she is even willing to go to jail in advocacy on behalf of her defenseless baby.”
In court last Friday, April 29, Shannon took a bold stand against the corruption and greed that has inundated her daughter’s medical malpractice case. She chose to stand on her own rather than to allow an evidently crooked judge and attorneys to keep this barreling train on the same railroad track that it has been on for the past few years. She took a stand as a mother who truly loves her daughter.
She also took a stand as a natural person deciding to handle her own affairs without an attorney, rather than to continue trusting more despicable members of the Michigan State BAR. She had that right according to federal law (i.e., see28 U.S.C §1654), and the “judge” Martha Snow was in violation of Shannon DeBacker’s constitutionally guaranteed rights when that judge sent Shannon to jail with the trumped up “contempt of court” charge.
Shannon additionally has every right to refuse to comply with an unlawful “order” of the court when that order disregards the safety and welfare of her child; particularly when she had a recent order by a registered nurse asserting that she nor anyone else should be allowing Michael Lewis to have access to Janna because she would be in imminent physical danger! Judge Martha Snow refused to address the new sexual assault allegations and evidence to support the reasoning of that nurse. Mrs. DeBacker insists that the pictures in evidence against Michael Lewis are much too graphic to place them in this online news story.
THE DEBACKERS ARE ASKING THAT SUPPORTERS COME TO THEIRHEARING MONDAY, MAY 2 AT 9AM, IN THE COURTROOM OF JUDGE MARTHA SNOW, RM. 1812, AT 2 WOODWARD AVE.
See documents related to Michael Lewis criminal history at:
Charles Lewis, in prison since 1977 at age of 17, case dismissed by Judge Gershwin Drain on April 3, 2000 after state failed to comply with requirements to hold “Pearson” evidentiary hearing allowing “res gestae” witnesses who saw real shooter at scene to testify. Lewis’ attorney said he was guilty in opening argument.
April 3, 2000 dismissal of Lewis’ case.
Judge Qiana Lillard acknowledges court order dismissing case at hearing April 21, 2016, takes no action
Lewis’ state court files, filling three cartons, have mysteriously “disappeared,” next hearing to feature last known official in possession
Lewis is one of state’s juvenile lifers whose case is being addressed under Montgomery v. Louisiana
By Diane Bukowski
April 29, 2016
U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin A. Drain
DETROIT – Why is Charles Lewis, 58, locked up in Michigan prisons since the age of 17, still there? On April 3, 2000, previous Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Gershwin Drain ordered that a charge of first-degree murder and a sentence of life without parole against Lewis be summarily dismissed. That order has never been carried out.
Questions remain regarding his guilt in the case.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard acknowledged having a copy of the order during a “show cause” hearing April 21, which Lewis “attended” through a videoconference from somewhere in the bowels of the Michigan Department of Corrections. She took no action on it.
“I’m excited that I got to make a record of the fact that I’m presently locked up without a conviction, or Court files or records,” Lewis said in a Jpay email to this author afterwards. “I got the chance to tell the judge that I was being held in prison without a conviction. She did not respond to that. She did say that she talked to Judge Drain, but did not elaborate on what they said to each other. I wanted to establish for the record the fact that I filed pleadings and she sent them back to me with no answer.
“Having me on a video is a violation of the Michigan Court Rules,” Lewis continued.
“That was designed for unruly people, and hearings that do not require testimony. When you take testimony you have a right to be present. So much for my rights.”
Charles Lewis’ mother Rosie Lewis in earlier years. From her daughter Wendy Lewis’ Facebook page. Mrs. Lewis and her daughter have vigorously fought for Charles’ freedom since 1977.
A prison counselor discovered Drain’s order in Lewis’ court records 10 years after it was issued and gave him a copy.
Lewis’ mother Rosie Lewis said she reviewed three cartons of files from her son’s case two years ago. Charles Lewis testified during the hearing that he last requested a copy of his complete file in June, 2013, to no avail. He said he also sent copies of the dismissal order to Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Virgil Smith, to the clerk at the Michigan Supreme Court, and to the Corporation Counsel for the Third Judicial Circuit Court, Kimberley Reed-Thompson.
The three cartons of files mysteriously disappeared after that.
“My primary concern is that I am in prison without a conviction, and nobody has reviewed the matter,” Lewis testified. “Why did my file come up missing? Files just don’t come up missing.”
Lewis has said that Wayne County Judge James Chylinski, who inherited Drain’s caseload after he was appointed to the federal bench in the Eastern District of Michigan, earlier expressed his willingness to hold a hearing on Drain’s order. But Lewis’ case somehow wound up in front of Judge Lillard instead.
Two contradictory Registers of Actions kept by the Wayne County Clerk show filings only from 2000 onward. The current one says Lewis was convicted on April 3, 2000 by a jury, a blatant lie and possible criminal obstruction of justice, since his conviction occurred in 1977. A previous Register of Actions says Drain dismissed the case against Lewis on April 3, 2000.
Current register showing Lewis’ conviction in 2000.
Disposition shown in earlier version of Register of Actions.
Wayne County prosecutors claimed Lewis murdered off-duty Detroit police officer Gerald A. Sypitkowski in 1976 outside a bar on Detroit’s east side. Newspaper articles at the time contradictorily said he and three friends either confronted Sypitkowski in the street, or tried to rob the bar itself. They also reported that Sypitkowski’s partner Dennis Van Fleteren, who was with him, witnessed the killing, which he said was carried out by the driver of a white Ford Mark IV named Leslie Nathaniel, not the young teens.
Dennis Van Fleteren/Facebook
Nathaniel was arrested and charged, but was later freed after allegedly passing a lie detector test. According to an inside source, Nathaniel was an autoworker known for loan sharking. According to the book, “Motor City Mafia–A Century of Organized Crime in Detroit,” by Scott M. Burnstein, the Mafia was heavily involved in loan sharking operations during that period.
Lewis was convicted in 1977, after two jury trials in front of Judge Joseph Maher. The first jury was excused after their deliberations without a reason. The second jury brought back a verdict of “guilty.”
In a federal motion for relief from judgment filed Feb. 11, 2016 , Lewis said M. Arthur Arduin, the court-appointed lawyer who represented him even after Lewis asked for his removal, acted against his interests. Lewis called him a “mob lawyer.”
Attorney M. Arthur Arduin, Sr. at the age of 91, in Detroit Free Press series on seniors.
Lewis says not only Van Fleteren, but a bar employee and four college students driving in the area testified that they saw the shotgun blast which killed Sypitkowski come from a white Ford Mark IV. Two men even chased the car and identified its license plate, leading initially to the arrest of Leslie Nathaniel. Nathaniel testified at trial that two men tried to open the doors of his car and he fled from them.
During the second trial, Lewis says that the judge excluded police officers who questioned the eyewitnesses from testifying. He quotes from Arduin’s opening argument, evidently from transcripts Lewis retained:
“There’s been a killing . . .Now we have here only one defendant. But originally there were four young Blacks. If they were part of a gang, I don’t know. But let’s assume they were part of a gang. We’re going to prove by all the witnesses who are going to testify in this case–by all the witnesses I mean the People’s witnesses, their own witnesses, and I may have a witness or two for the defense. We’re going to prove four lads who are part of a gang, who are–expertise. Expertise–they knew how to steal cars and God only knows if they knew how to rob. Now that’s what we’re going to prove. And they started out on this day, July 1, 1976 — four of them, four of them–to steal a car and go out and commit a robbery.”
Lewis later filed for a “Pearson” evidentiary hearing, to produce factual (“res gestae”) witnesses who did not testify at his second trial.
Photo from Lewis’ Facebook page, maintained by his sister Wendy.
The State failed to hold the hearing within the required time limit of 30 days, resulting in Judge Drain’s order of dismissal. When the state finally held a hearing a year later, Van Fleteren was not listed among the witnesses. However, he remains very much alive according to his Facebook page.
Leslie WIlliams, a woman police officer who arrived on the scene later did testify; she claimed Van Fleteren was too drunk to see what happened.
Before his imprisonment, Lewis was a musician, a guitarist, with his own band. He is a writer, who previously wrote for the Afro-American Gazette out of Grand Rapids as well as a prison newspaper, The Huron Valley Monitor. He said he took journalism and political science courses in college, when the MDOC still offered college courses.
Autobiography of Malcolm X
Edward Sanders, another juvenile lifer who attained his bachelor’s degree in prison, wrote VOD that he knew Lewis when they were both incarcerated at Ionia prison in the late 1970’s.
“I used to read his books on the music business and the late El-Hajj Malik el-Shabaaz, [Malcolm X],” Sanders wrote. “We used to call him KK.” Newspaper articles at the time of Officer Sypitowski’s killing used Lewis’ nickname to claim he belonged to a youth gang known as the “KK Capones”. Lewis’ mother Rosie said the initials came from Kilbourne Street, where her son grew up.
Judge Lillard said the purpose of the April 21 court hearing was her previous order for Wayne County to produce Lewis’ full court file, issued March 17.
Lillard was appointed to the Wayne County Circuit Court bench by Governor Rick Snyder on Aug. 7, 2013, after spending eight years in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. Her legal experience prior to that was with Detroit Edison, the Michigan Basic Property Insurance Association, and AAA Michigan, according to a campaign biography.
Judge Qiana Lillard
Prosecutors across Michigan are currently reviewing files of the state’s 364 “juvenile lifers” in an attempt to comply with Montgomery v. Louisiana. The U.S. Supreme Court decided Jan. 25, 2015, that its earlier ruling in Miller V. Alabama, calling juvenile life without parole “unconstitutional,” and “cruel and unusual punishment,” under the Sixth Amendment, is completely retroactive.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette represented one of only four states in the U.S. which ultimately refused to acknowledge the retroactivity. The Michigan legislature earlier passed statutes allowing prosecutors to file LWOP re-sentencings for court hearings before judges or juries. Those prisoners they do not choose to request LWOP on will be automatically sentenced to a minimum of 25-40 and a maximum of 60 years.
It is questionable whether those statutes violate Miller, which requires an in-depth individual assessment of each prisoner at the time of the crime in question.
During the April 21 court hearing, one in a series, Lewis’ attorney Felicia O’Connor of Foley & Lardner, Wayne County Prosecutor Jason Williams, and Judge Lillard questioned David Baxter, clerk of the Wayne County Clerk’s criminal division, regarding the Lewis file. Baxter also sits on the Criminal Work Group Forms Committee of the state Supreme Court Administrator’s Office.
Lewis’ attorney Felicia O’Connor
“I have not been able to locate copies of that file,” Baxter said, “only a file from another 1976 case, and filings from the murder case since 2000.”
The other case, pertaining to an armed robbery, is closed according to the Michigan Department of Corrections OTIS website.
“We’ve been looking for the [murder] file for some time, at least two years,” Baker said. “The last judge who requested it was Edward Ewell, who took a civil assignment later. His clerk Joann Gaskin was the last person I know of who had the file in its entirety.”
In one prominent criminal case in 2011, Judge Ewell refused to grant a stay of Maryanne Godboldo’s criminal prosecution for standing off police officers who came to her home to take and medicate her 13-year-old daughter against her will, pending the outcome of a Michigan Supreme Court decision in Moreno. The Supreme Court later upheld the “common-law” right of individuals to resist illegal police conduct and arrests in Moreno.
Thirty-Sixth District Court Judge Ronald Giles and Circuit Court Judge Gregory Bill have since twice dismissed the charges against Godboldo, saying the “order” used to take Godboldo’s child was invalid, and she had a right to resist.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Edward Ewell.
Baxter said Gaskin would have sent Lewis’ file to the Clerk’s office on the ninth floor, and it would now be in storage at the Vigliotti Building on E. Jefferson. Baxter said he also contacted the Michigan Supreme Court, which has received the file numerous times pertaining to various appeals of Lewis’ case. He said he has not personally conducted a hands-on search for the file.
Judge Lillard said she would hold another hearing with Joann Gaskin as a witness on the next date the videoconference room is available. There is only one such room in the Frank Murphy Hall.
Lewis asked for her to direct both parties to submit briefs on the case, but Judge Lillard said they were only at an “investigatory” stage and refused to do so.
After the hearing, this reporter and Mrs. Lewis met with Attorney O’Connor, who said she has been directed by her firm, Foley & Lardner, not to waive attorney-client privilege in the case by discussing it with the media. Foley & Lardner is representing Lewis pro bono under an arrangement assigning lawyers to all state juvenile lifers, by noted defense attorney Deborah LaBelle.
This reporter and Mrs. Lewis then went to the 9th floor Clerk’s office to file our own request for the file, but have not heard back from them.
Nelson Mandela in prison in apartheid South Africa.
VOD has left a message for Judge Drain in his federal office in Detroit, and is awaiting his reply. This reporter has also contacted Dennis Van Fleteren through his Facebook page messages, and has received no reply from him yet. VOD intends to continue its investigation of this case, due to other anomalies discovered so far.
“I know that God has a plan for my life and that my struggle is not in vain,” Lewis wrote to this reporter. “It took Nelson Mandela 27 years to get out of prison. I’ve served nearly twice as much time as Nelson Mandela served under apartheid. It makes you wonder which system is the real apartheid system.”
Syrian civilians in Aleppo following air strike; U.S. has escalated war to overthrow Syrian government by sending U.S. troops there. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders support the U.S. intervention.Photo: The Guardian
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
April 27, 2016
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders agree on U.S. war agenda in Syria, Middle East.
Bernie Sanders has endorsed President Obama’s troop escalation in Syria, once again showing that “he is no more ‘progressive’ than Obama on foreign policy, and just as dishonest – a true Democrat.”
Sanders will ultimately bow to Hillary Clinton, while still claiming that the Democratic Party can be transformed from the inside. However, millions will have witnessed that the campaign proves exactly the opposite – and will seek alternatives.
“His underlings are telling the troops that this whole electoral exercise will be worthwhile if they succeed in pushing through a progressive party platform, in Philadelphia.”
The 2016 presidential season will only be of historical significance if it leads to a fracturing of the duopoly electoral system in the United States, a “trap within a trap” in which the rich control both parties – one of which is always the overt party of white supremacy. Donald Trump has already succeeded in creating a “market” for a second right-wing party by stripping the GOP’s’ appeal to its raw, racist, white nationalist essentials – a political nightmare for every corporate public relations department in the nation. Corporate logos will be hidden in brown paper bags at the Republican convention, in Cleveland.
US business magnate Donald Trump, who is running for president in the 2016 presidential elections. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN
It is difficult to imagine how the Trump rank and file and the party’s corporate “establishment” will paper over their irreconcilable differences, rooted in the party’s failure to preserve skin privilege and good jobs in a White Man’s Country. Just as brazenly, Trump, the rabble rousing billionaire, has violated the most sacred ruling class taboos by rejecting the national security rationale for the hyper-aggressive, ever-expanding, global U.S. military presence. If Trump fails to convincingly recant such heresies, the rulers will deal with him with extreme prejudice.
“Trump has violated the most sacred ruling class taboos by rejecting the national security rationale for the hyper-aggressive, ever-expanding, global U.S. military presence.”
Bernie Sanders presents no such threat to Empire. He supports President Obama’s illegal drone wars and the 15-year occupation of Afghanistan. Should he somehow be elected president, Sanders would follow Obama’s practice of reserving Tuesday’s for choosing targets from his “Kill List.” To circumvent U.S. and international prohibitions against assassination, Sanders offers the same “self-defense” justification as the Israelis do, when they slaughter Palestinians by the thousands. “There are people out there who want to kill Americans, who want to attack this country, and I think we have a right to defend ourselves,” Sanders told Chris Hayes, of MSNBC.
U.S. President Barack Obama has boots on the ground in Syria, across the globe.
The nominally socialist senator from Vermont claims that he differs from Hillary Clinton on foreign policy because she “is too much into regime change and a little bit too aggressive without knowing what the unintended consequences might be.”
During the New Hampshire debate, Sanders said the ouster of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein “destabilized the entire region” and the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi “created a vacuum for ISIS” in Libya. “Yes, we could get rid of Assad tomorrow,” Sanders told the crowd, back in February, “but that would create another political vacuum that would benefit ISIS.”
“It doesn’t bother Sanders a bit that the U.S. presence on sovereign Syrian soil is illegal, an act of war.”
His leftish boosters clung to these utterances as proof that Sanders was, deep down, a peaceable kind of guy, in sharp contrast to “Queen of Chaos” Clinton. Tuesday, however, as he was losing four of five primaries, Sanders showed that he is no less a warlord than Barack Obama – who, like Sanders, based his “peace candidate” appeal on his 2002 opposition to the Iraq invasion. Obama announced he was sending 250 more U.S. Special Forces troops into Syria, supposedly to fight ISIS and to arm and train more of those elusive, damn-near-extinct “moderate” rebels. It doesn’t bother Sanders a bit that the U.S. presence on sovereign Syrian soil is illegal, an act of war, as is U.S. funding and training of fighters attempting “regime change.”
Syrian hospital in Aleppo bombed April 28, 2016.
“Here’s the bottom line,” said Sanders. “ISIS has got to be destroyed, and the way that ISIS must be destroyed is not through American troops fighting on the ground.” U.S. Special Forces have already been engaged in combat operations in Syria, as Sanders should know. Nevertheless, he plowed on:
“I think what the president is talking about is having American troops training Muslim troops, helping to supply the military equipment they need, and I do support that effort. We need a broad coalition of Muslim troops on the ground. We have had some success in the last year or so putting ISIS on the defensive, we’ve got to continue that effort.”
What Sanders is saying is that he would continue Obama’s policy of regime change, despite the “unintended consequences” and its clear illegality. He is no more “progressive” than Obama on foreign policy, and just as dishonest – a true Democrat.
“Sanders opposes ‘regime change’ except when it is perpetrated by a Democratic administration.”
Obama sends 500 U.S. troops to Syria.
The same day, Sanders sidestepped Joe Scarborough’s attempts to get him to agree that Hillary Clinton is a “hawk” on foreign policy. “I don’t want to characterize her, but I think our views on foreign policy are different,” Sanders told the MSNBC host.
“I think my views are a lot closer to President Obama’s than they are to Hillary Clinton’s…. I believe it must be Muslim troops on the ground who do the fighting with the support of the United States. I will do everything that I can to prevent our troops from getting involved in perpetual warfare in the Middle East.”
A distinction without a difference, as they say. Sanders opposes “regime change” except when it is perpetrated by a Democratic administration. He really doesn’t mind U.S. “boots on the ground” in other people’s countries, as long as they are arming and training people of native religions and races to kill others of their kind, and U.S. casualties are kept to a minimum.
ISIS executes government police and soldiers in open field in Iraq. ISIS is a creation of the U.S. CIA, originating with the anti-Gaddafi “rebels” who helped the U.S. and NATO obliterate Libya.
Sanders is an imperialist pig. Although his self-image is that of a Scandinavian social democrat, Sanders is more like a French “socialist” who supports the maintenance of a safety net for his own people, but reserves the right to routinely commit mass murder in the former colonies in order to preserve the French “way of life” and “values.”
With the mathematics of the presidential primary race now undeniable, Sanders is preparing his supporters to scale back their dreams of social transformation – which, for some of them, includes a genuine retreat from Empire as well as a new domestic deal. His underlings are telling the troops that this whole electoral exercise will be worthwhile if they succeed in pushing through a progressive party platform, in Philadelphia. Then it will be time to unite with Hillary, the plutocrats’ candidate, in the battle against the dreaded Trumpster.
“Sanders is preparing his supporters to scale back their dreams of social transformation.”
Bernie Sanders is peddling the sucker’s line, that the Democratic Party can be transformed from the inside. However, the actual experience of the campaign, as witnessed by millions of young, newly energized citizens, is proving exactly the opposite; that this corporate-crafted Democratic mechanism and its interlocking Republican counterpart are tools of the oligarchy, designed to manufacture consent to corporate rule and corral and crush dissent.
Military occupation at home: Teen confronts police in Ferguson, MO after the police execution of Michael Brown Aug. 9, 2014. His killer, Darren Wilson, was exonerated.
When Sanders consummates his “sheep dog” assignment, he will deflate to his original state: a small-town Democratic Party operative. Most of his supporters will acquiesce to Hillary’s nomination – just as most people everywhere acquiesce to everything most of the time.
But, a significant proportion, numbering in the millions, and including the half of young African Americans that have rejected the Black Misleadership Class’s slavish allegiance to the Democratic Party hierarchy, will not. And, although Hillary Clinton will surely win victory in November with her “big tent” Democratic Party – flush with white suburbanites who, only yesterday, were Republicans – it will be a Party that is even more hostile to Blacks and progressives than before Donald Trump plunged the duopoly into crisis.
Millions of people, especially young folks, will be looking for an alternative to the Democrats and the Republicans – or to electoral politics, entirely. It’s up to the Left to give it to them.
With statements by the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, Mother Tynetta Muhammad, wife of the late Elijah Muhammad
Prince not only an artist: he battled corporations for artists’ rights and justice, fought police violence, environmental racism
“When you stop a man from dreaming, he becomes a slave”–Prince
Note: VOD editor Diane Bukowski previously wrote for The Final Call over a period of six years. The Final Call has produced a stunning, one of a kind article on Prince that analyzes his legacy from a people’s political standpoint, unlike coverage in the mainstream media.
In this June 2, 2014, file photo, U.S. pop singer Prince watches the fourth round match of the French Open tennis tournament between Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic at the Roland Garros stadium, in Paris. Prince announced on, Aug. 25, 2014, that he would release a new album entitled, “Art Official Age” on Warner Bros. Records, the label Prince was signed to from 1978 to the mid-1990s, but later battled for the rights of his music. Photos: AP/ Wide World photos
Vigils, block parties, and celebrations of his life continued across the world for music artist and global icon Prince, who passed away at age 57 on April 21.
Prince was an incredible musician, culture watchers and analysts told The Final Call. Just look at the outpouring of love by fans touched by his music, they said.
But, they added, Prince is also loved because he was principled. He fought for artists’ rights and for justice. He fought for people who could not fight for themselves, not just through his music, but with his clout and his finances.
“I like you will miss Prince. I like you saw the Greatness in his Struggle just to gain ownership of his own name. I saw the Greatness of his Being, the courage that he had to fight for, not only his own image, his own likeness, and his own music masters but to fight for others who were not as blessed with the depth of love and the breadth of courage that he demonstrated,” wrote the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam in a tribute published in The Final Call. He also highlighted the “beauty” of the “essence” of Prince in his music, his gifts and his service to others. The musician tried to visit the Minister during a serious illness in the 1990s and donated $50,000 to the Million Family March in 2000.
A memorial fence in memory of pop star Prince is lined with flowers and signs at Paisley Park Studios, April 22, in Chanhassen, Minn. Prince died April 21 at Paisley Park at the age of 57.
“Though I am saddened over the fact that I will never physically meet him, we will always have him with us through the music that he gave us, the struggle that he made that taught us how we must stand up, fearless against that which is ugly in its injustice, its unrighteousness and its wickedness,” said Minister Farrakhan. For Minister Farrakhan’s full statement, see link at end of story.
“He had a mystique, this whole thing about not being accessible, but from what I understood and from what I’ve seen, he was a lot more accessible than people realized,” said Davey D, a national hip hop journalist and historian.
“Here’s a guy that, when you talked to folks, they’d be like, ‘Oh yeah! He was showing up at the back of my poetry show in the middle of nowhere, and he’d be sitting there in the back, checking you out,” Davey D stated.
A fan cries at a makeshift memorial created in remembrance of singer Prince outside Apollo Theatre in New York , April 22.
He recalled Prince was so impressed with Bay Area DJ Pam the Funktress’ work at after parties that he put her on tour with him.
Whether discussing environmental pollution with journalist and author Tavis Smiley, funding songs and videos about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or holding a concert and focusing on the problem of police violence, Prince’s fight for justice was as pure as his music, said Davey D, artists and analysts.
“He was one of those folks that gave and was committed, and pushed back fully, all at the same time of being a consummate artist and playing that game very well, meaning that he kept a certain type of mystique about him, a certain type of sex appeal, if you will, and he knew how to play to people’s emotions,” Davey D said.
Prince’s art and intelligence earned many accolades, including seven Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
The artist formally known as Prince, with the word “Slave” written across his face, belts out a tune from not only a revolutionary artist, but as a business his new CD, “Chaos and Disorder,” outside the studio of NBC-TV’s “Today” show in New York’s Rockefeller Plaza, July 9, 1996. Photos: AP/Wide World photos
Prince had just returned to Warner Bros. Records after an 18-year feud. He regained ownership of his catalog in an agreement that also meant a new album. During the fight, in which he was unable to use his birth name, the musician created a symbol that was used to represent him and re-named himself, “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” in 1993. Three years later he would sever ties with Warner Bros.
In a music video and in public performances, the word “slave” was written on his cheek. “People think I’m a crazy fool for writing ‘slave’ on my face,” he said in a 1996 interview with Rolling Stone magazine. “But if I can’t do what I want to do, what am I? When you stop a man from dreaming, he becomes a slave. That’s where I was. I don’t own Prince’s music. If you don’t own your masters, your master owns you.”
Prince stood up to the corporations and won, said Davey D. “Not only did he stand up, but he stood on principles, like, ‘I will not put my name next to a product.’ That’s a pretty bold move.”
Many have used the “if I don’t do it, somebody else will do it. I gotta get it now” excuse, said the internationally known chronicler of hip hop and music. “Prince was like to hell with that! ‘You ain’t getting paid, and I’m not gonna get paid, but that’s alright.’ He found other ways to get paid, because he understood that his talent was transferrable. His talent wasn’t dependent upon Warner Bros. or anything like that,” Davey D said.
The skilled, protective Prince licensed his music to stream only on Tidal, the popular music service owned by rap mogul Jay Z.
Musicians staHHr. Davey D and Jasiri X
“Even though as somebody who would like easy access to his music, I can respect the fact that it’s scrubbed from the internet and all those places where money was made off his product. He did that. … That’s pretty big,” Davey D added.
For rap activist Jasiri X, Prince’s activism around artist independence and justice are a big part of the Prince legacy, and are very influential on his own life and art.
“He didn’t just exist as a musical genius,” the rapper said. In Prince’s tradition, he too feels strongly that as a young, Black man in America, he has no luxury to do art for art’s sake. He feels a duty to speak on what is happening with his people and his community.
“It’s interesting how we saw that play out with Prince. We saw it play out first with his stance on artists’ ownership and standing up to the record company. … He and both Michael Jackson did the same thing,” Jasiri X noted.
Muhammad Ali and The Artist Formerly Known As Prince are photographed at a press conference in Washington, D.C. on June 24, 1997 detailing plans for the World Healing Honors, a benefit concert headlined by the Artist to promote international harmony and tolerance. All proceeds from the October concert in Los Angeles went towards Ali’s World Healing Project.
They stood up to record companies and against the exploitation of artists, and Prince took it a step further, he continued. “They took ownership of his given name, and he decided to take on a symbol and market that, which was really powerful.”
But Prince wasn’t through, said Jasiri X. In 1985, he started his own label Paisley Park Records with Warner Bros.
Prince became one of the leading artists to begin to utilize the internet and distribute his music online early on, but he did not allow YouTube to get paid off his music without paying him.
“I think about his Musicology tour, where he included his album in the price of the ticket. … It became the highest selling album in the country because of that tactic, and Billboard or the artist registry basically said they would not count that as record sales anymore after Prince did it,” Jasiri X recalled.
“You’re talking about somebody that was not only a revolutionary artist, but as a business person, and thinking about how—which is a struggle that many artists have—do you monetize your music, being at the forefront of doing different things and looking at different ways to monetize music.”
“Music is nothing without the product behind it,” said Che “Rhymefest” Smith, Grammy Award-winning rapper and songwriter. “The music is just the commercial for who you are as a person, and for what you provide, the services you provide as a human being, like how do you serve. And then your music is your journal to that journey.”
Prince exhibited significant attributes in different ways, from giving money to the family of slain teen Trayvon Martin in Florida, to giving money and showing up and performing at a school for the deaf, he said. “I mean, he performed seven concerts and still had time in the 80s, at the height of Purple Rain, to perform and raise money for deaf children through concerts for them … saying that you may not hear the tonality of my music, but you’re going to feel the spiritual vibration of it,” Rhymefest told The Final Call.
Prince could have left it at just being a great guitarist, an artist, but Prince learned to play 27 instruments and with them, gave the world the gift of 28, including his voice, Rhymefest continued.
The world is coming to know just how he manifested the word of God through his actions, Rhymefest said.
“I think it’s very important when we as Muslims think about what it is our prayers say, what it is that the Qur’an says and the Hadith says, to be a servant of Allah. Prince, no matter what religion he called himself, as a human being, he was a servant of Allah. He was the manifestation of what a Muslim is, and you see that not only in his music, but in his service of mankind,” he added.
Mother Tynnetta Muhammad, the late wife of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, reflected on Prince’s creating Love 4 One Another, a non-profit dedicated to relieving poverty by communal action and self-help programs.
A crowd pays tribute to Prince inside First Ave where “Purple Rain” was filmed late, April 21,in Minneapolis. Photo: AP/Wide World photos
It was to, “eliminate ‘lack’ from the global vocabulary,” Mother Tynnetta wrote in a column, “The awakening of Sleeping Beauty—The Golden Age of the New Cultural Revolution Begins A Seven Day Celebration with Prince—A Tribute to Paul Robeson and Mei Lanfang” which appeared in 2000 in The Final Call newspaper. In the column, she shared her experience touring Paisley Park.
“The Honorable Elijah Muhammad desired that our entertainers and performers would become spiritually awakened to the knowledge of themselves by placing God in the forefront of their creative gifts and influences,” she wrote.
“The man named Prince appears to be sincerely motivated and guided by a genuine spirit of godliness seeking to escape the entrapments of a dying world,” Mother Tynnetta Muhammad continued.
Prince has empowered many young adults through Yes We Code, a national initiative to connect 100,000 men and women from low opportunity backgrounds to high-paying careers in technology.
“Prince’s struggle as a gifted artist to reclaim his own name on the basis of Freedom, Justice and Equality, pitted in a legal battle with Warner Brothers Records, has placed him in a vanguard position as an example for others,” she observed.
Prince was one of the last few great artists who had a chance to make a lot of money but did not really care a whole lot about money, said Dr. Boyce Watkins, entrepreneur, writer and analyst.
“He seemed to have value systems that went beyond money, which to me, it kind of propels him ahead of most other entertainers, because since Prince died, people have talked about what kind of philanthropist he was and how much he cared about his community, and also how much he cared about making good, independent music,” Dr. Watkins said.
He was a good artist, and he defended his right to be an artist, even in the face of corporate control and manipulation, Dr. Watkins said.
Dr. Boyce Watkins, the “People’s Scholar.”
“A lot of people think that freedom of speech or creative freedom comes in the form of music where they’re calling women all kinds of derogatory names and rapping about Black men killing each other, but that’s not creative freedom. That’s corporate speech, what corporations tell you to say,” he argued.
“Prince stood up to corporations and said, ‘You’re not going to control me,’ and a lot of people admired him for that,” Dr. Watkins said.
Many also admired Prince because he understood he was more than an artist, Dr. Watkins said. “He understood that you can’t be a ‘successful’ Black man if you’re not doing anything for other Black people,” he said.
Dr. Watkins believes Prince set the tone for the next 30 years with what he did with the film “Purple Rain” in 1984.
“That’s what most people know him for, even though he’s made a lot of music since then. He’s put out 39 studio albums, and they say that 70 percent of his music has not been released, which is really amazing,” Dr. Watkins said.
“What we’re looking at is somebody who is really committed to the craft. He studies. He rehearses. He practices. He does due diligence in terms of making sure that his performance and skill level is up there, and he takes his time, and he is very particular about what he was going to let out, what he wasn’t,” said Davey D.
“That sort of work ethic I think we take for granted but it’s not seen in a lot of people,” he said. Some artists turn out projects quickly so they can be consumed versus taking time and getting it right. “They’re just like, Hey. We just want you to get this out, and don’t worry about yo’ur audience. They’re not smart enough. They’re not worthy enough. They’re not insightful enough to know the difference between you taking your time and getting all the right equipment, and right notes, and players or musicians to do your thing versus just doing any old thing,” he said.
Prince was in a class of musicians and singers that set a high bar in the entertainment industry. He was in the company of Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, Rick James, Barry White and others that were always on point, Davey D added.
Prince of the 1980s is largely remembered and celebrated, but there was so much more than that that he wanted to do, a tearful Van Jones, Prince’s friend and one of his attorneys, said in various TV interviews.
Logo for Prince’s charity known as “Love 4 One Another”.
According to Mr. Jones, it was Phaedra Ellis Lamkins, a young, Black woman in the labor movement, Prince’s manager, who went to war to get his catalogue back.
Prince wanted to make children’s cartoons, control his own music, and help children, he said. Prince cared so much just about ordinary people, Mr. Jones stated during the Dr. Drew show on the cable Headline News channel.
Prince has empowered many young adults through Yes We Code, a national initiative to connect 100,000 men and women from low-opportunity backgrounds to high-paying careers in technology. Prince helped launch the initiative at the 20th Anniversary Essence Music Festival, July 4th, 2014.
“It’s so hard to talk about your friend in the past tense,” Mr. Jones said.
Family and friends had an intimate ceremony April 23 after Prince’s remains were cremated.
Publicist Yvette Noel-Schure said the celebration of his life included his “most beloved” family, friends and musicians. She said a musical celebration will be held at a future date.
The list of people who attended was not announced, but Prince’s sister Tyka Nelson and brother-in-law Maurice Phillips were seen on the grounds of Prince’s estate Paisley Park, as well as friends such as percussionist Sheila E. and bassist Larry Graham.
Prince’s Paisley Park Studios
Prince was found unresponsive April 21 in an elevator at Paisley Park, and an autopsy was done. Authorities have not declared a cause of death and said results could take days or weeks.
His sudden death brought different stories and concerns about whether it was from natural causes or some other nefarious means. Prince was known for clean living.
For 25 years Jaye Delai has entertained audiences around the world on the radio. The announcer’s distinctive voice has been heard on radio stations in large cities such as Charlotte and small towns playing the music of Black America for decades.
“Prince Rogers Nelson was one of the most incredible talents this world has ever seen,” he said. “However it is his creative genius, his business mind, and humanitarian efforts that set him apart.”
“Prince was one of the most vocal artists as well when it came to the fair and equitable treatment of artists. He fought Warner Brothers over the rights for his catalog of music, his name and more. When he wrote slave on his face he also said that these industry contracts make slaves out of performers,” he said.
(Nisa Islam Muhammad and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Minister Farrakhan’s statement on Prince’s passing: