(Video above is from Michigan Supreme Court website: arguments on Harold Walker application for leave to appeal Jan. 24, 2019)

High court voids conviction and sentence, orders that Walker be re-tried in front of another judge

Cites jury “coercion” and intimidation, Lillard calling Walker a “clown” six times during sentencing to  3 to 75 years 

In three other cases, Courts of Appeal reversed sentences, cited Lillard’s practice of sentencing defendants to highest  level if they exercised Sixth Amendment right to jury trial instead of taking a plea deal

New discovery: Lillard ignored advice from Office of General Counsel to grant Charles Lewis “due process,” hold open court hearing on allegations that Lewis forged order from Judge Drain dismissing conviction; hearing on Lewis case Fri. July 19

By Diane Bukowski

July 17, 2019

Judge Lillard during DUI sentencing.

DETROIT, MI – A news video in which Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard called white family members of a DUI defendant “clowns” for allegedly laughing in court went viral last year, making her a hero.  Lillard sent the mother of the defendant to jail for one day.  

One website said Lillard, who is Black, was standing up to “white supremacists.”  Others expressed admiration for her alleged “no-nonsense” control of her courtroom. See

But on July 11, the Michigan Supreme Court thoroughly castigated Judge Lillard regarding a 2014 case where she repeatedly called defendant Harold Lamont Walker, who is Black, a “clown” and a “coward” before sentencing him to three to 75 years for firearms offenses.  They also cited what they called coercive jury instructions and intimidation of jury members, including forcing one member who was late to sit in the “prisoner’s box” for the duration of the one-day trial.

The high court threw out Walker’s conviction and sentence and ordered him re-tried before another judge. Walker was represented by Attorney Adrienne Young of the State Appellate Defender’s Office, who declined comment on the victory but referred VOD to the court ruling itself. See full ruling at:

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Megan Cavanagh

“We hold that the [jury] instruction crossed the line from appropriately encouraging deliberation and candid consideration to impermissibly coercing jurors to surrender their honestly held beliefs for the sake of reaching a verdict,” Justice Megan Cavanagh wrote for the 5-2 majority.

“The error was plain, affected defendant’s substantial rights, and affected the fairness, integrity, and public reputation of the judicial proceeding . . . . Additionally, in light of the trial court’s conduct during defendant’s sentencing, we direct that defendant be retried before a different judge.”

The court said further, “After defendant indicated at least eight times during his allocution that he had nothing further to say, the trial judge continued to bait him, engaging in name-calling (calling him a “clown” six times and a “coward”), with the exchange escalating to defendant stating, “F— you,” to which the trial court replied, “Oh, you wish you could.” The trial court also admonished defendant, suggesting that he liked being in prison (“Cause that’s what your life shows me, that you like to go to prison.”) and stated that it would have sentenced him more leniently but for his disrespect toward the court (“I was inclined to give you the middle of the road, . . . but because you’re so disrespectful and you just seem to want to go back to prison . . . .”).

Harold Lamont Walker (Photo: MDOC)

Walker was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, felon in possession of a firearm, and felony firearms. He had been standing with friends, drinking beers, near a house when police cruised by. They claimed they saw Walker move away to a bush near the porch of the house and drop a heavy object from his pocket into the bush. Police said they found a revolver in the bush.

A friend who was with him testified at trial that he had put the gun in the bush earlier in the day. He said Walker had thrown a can of beer into the bush because he was on parole and was not supposed to be drinking.

The court said the judge humiliated a juror who came in 15 minutes late by forcing the juror to sit in the box where in-custody prisoners are usually placed when awaiting their hearings. After the trial ended and the case went to the jury, they sent a note asking to see the weapon and shortly afterwards said they were deadlocked. The court said the judge gave improper and coercive jury instructions as follows:

“Now, if there’s someone among you who’s failing to follow the instructions or there’s someone who’s refusing to participate in the process, you can send us a note and let us know that and we can address that, but at this point I’m not inclined to end your deliberations at this point because you had a full day of testimony and you’ve only been at this, discussing it, for one hour.

“So I’m going to send you to lunch, maybe sometime [sic] apart will help you all to think about things, and then you’ll come back in one hour and resume your deliberations. If you have any questions, if there is anything that you don’t understand or need clarification on send a note. And again, if there’s one among you or two among you, three among you who are refusing to follow the instructions or participate in the process you can let us know that, too.”

Appeals Court Judge Elizabeth Gleicher

The court noted, “The jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts at 3:07 p.m., approximately 1½ hours after returning from lunch. The trial court sentenced defendant as a fourth-offense habitual offender, MCL 769.12, to concurrent prison terms of 46 months to 75 years for felon-in-possession and CCW, both of which were to be served consecutively to the mandatory 10-year sentence for third-offense felony-firearm.

It said it appeared clear that the jury returned a “guilty” verdict in Walker’s case because it was intimidated by Judge Lillard. 

The court also cited Judge Lillard’s depiction of the testimony of Walker’s witness, noting that there was no evidentiary basis for Judge Lillard’s opinion.

“I think he conspired with Mr. Williams, while Mr. Williams was in custody in the Wayne County Jail awaiting trial, and they trumped up that phony, bogus testimony. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that low-and-behold after that young man spent some time in the Wayne County Jail, all of a sudden he decided he wanted to come to court and tell a ridiculous version of events. And I think that that was nothing more than a conspiracy between Mr. Walker and — using his influence over a young man from the neighborhood, who looked up to him, to try to get him to take the rap for him.”

It included an earlier dissenting Appeals Court opinion from Judge Elizabeth Gleicher, in which she included a shocking section of the actual sentencing transcript. See

SADO Attorney Adrienne Young (Facebook)

In three earlier cases, state Courts of Appeals sent defendants to another judge for re-sentencing. They were the cases of Christobal DeLeon, Derek James Smith, and Floyd Pennington. The Courts of Appeals cited Lillard’s admitted practice of handing out sentences at the top of the guidelines if defendants had exercised their Sixth Amendment right to jury trials, rather than taking plea deals.

During oral arguments on the Walker case,  Attorney Adrienne Young called the practice “the Pennington practice.” She had included an amendment to her Supreme Court brief regarding that case in particular.

The Courts of Appeals struck down the sentences handed out to those defendants, and ordered that they be re-sentenced in front of other judges.

Trump with “Great Wall of Mexico.”

In the case of Christobal DeLeon, Appeals Court Judge Amy Krause also cited the “severity of the trial court’s misconduct in discussing the race, ethnicity, sexuality or religious beliefs of a defendant while passing sentence.”  Judge Lillard had told the Latino defendant, “You, sir, are a discredit to every immigrant who comes to this country seeking a better life . . . .fodder for the people who believe that a wall should be built to keep Mexicans out.” 

Krause explained, “The trial court’s comments about defendant’s Hispanic heritage are horrific, as confirmed in part by the prosecutor in their brief, who acknowledges that the trial court’s comments were ‘inflammatory’ and  ‘unnecessary.’  Moreover, these statements are meant to echo deeply disturbing rhetoric that paints Hispanic immigrants as rapists, murderers, and thieves.  There can be no doubt that the trial court had exactly such characterizations in mind by stating, “[i]t’s people like you and your friends who did what they did to this woman is the reason right now we have a president and a whole bunch of people following him believing a wall should be built to keep Latinos out of this country.”    The inclusion of such statements on the record leaves me with no choice but to assume that they were influential in the trial court’s decision.”

One long-time defense attorney told VOD recently that Lillard is known for the abnormally high sentences she hands out.


During three and one-half years of juvenile life re-sentencing hearings, which VOD has covered,  Charles Lewis brought to Judge Lillard’s attention an Order dismissing his case dated April 3, 2000, signed by Judge Gershwin Drain. The Order (below) was belatedly discovered by an employee in the Court Clerk’s office, misfiled in another case. It was then sent to various other personnel including Lewis’ Residential Unit Manager at Lakeland Correctional Facility, who gave it to Lewis.


The Order is listed currently at the beginning of Lewis Register of Actions (below at top). An earlier version of the Register of Actions listed it as a dismissal (below at bottom).

Lillard accepted the copy of the order into the record, but later obtained a letter from U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain dated in 2012 claiming the order was forged and that Lewis had never been on his docket. The letter was not signed by Drain, but instead rubber-stamped.

AP Thomas Dawson and AP Jason Williams share a laugh during one of Lewis’ hearings.

Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Dawson has cited the alleged forgery as evidence of Lewis’ continuing criminal conduct in prison, in his effort to have Lewis re-sentenced to LWOP.

Lewis earlier explained at length, in his Motion to Remand the Correct the Record, how he obtained the document. See full motion under Related Documents below.

But Judge Lillard apparently consulted the Office of the General Counsel about how to handle the order. Atty Valerie Albright responded in 2014 (see full letter at 

Beginning of Atty. Valerie Albright’s advice to Judge Lillard on Drain order.

U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain

Instead of holding an evidentiary hearing on this most serious matter, Judge Lillard addressed it verbally, stating she had called now-U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain regarding the order, and he denied authoring it or ever having Lewis on his docket. The phone call constituted an ex parte action in violation of proper court procedure.

Additionally, Lillard previously worked in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office with Judge Drain’s daughter Shelley Drain, constituting a conflict of interest.Lillard has said in a published article that she considers Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy her “mentor.” Chief Judge Timothy Kenny recused Lillard from the case involving the murder of Renisha McBride by Theodore Wafer at the request of defense attorneys, who cited her close relationship with members of the Prosecutor’s Office, including one AP working the case.

Defense Attorney Michael Deutsch with Rasmea Odeh

Drain and everyone associated with the discovery of the order should have been called to testify on the record as Albright advised, but that never happened.

Drain is the judge who ordered Palestinian community activist Rasmea Odeh deported to Israel because she stated on her application for citizenship that she had never been arrested. She was detained, tortured and raped by Israeli soldiers many years ago.


Related documents:

Charles Lewis Motion to Remand the Correct the Record at

Court of Appeals dissenting opinion in Harold Lamont Walker case, pending Michigan Supreme Court decision

Court of Appeals opinion castigating Judge Lillard for racial anti-immigrant comments in Christobal DeLeon case:

Court of Appeals opinion in Floyd Pennington case:

Court of Appeals opinion in Derek James Smith case:

Related stories:




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MISSION MUSIC – GET UP (feat. De’Asha Spencer-Kyle, 2Tru, Cam G & QueenBarzz)


Above is a video done by Benton Harbor High School students to save their school district. The state wants the valuable waterfront land BHHS is on. The Benton Harbor School Board has now voted NO! twice on proposals from the Whitmer administration. A VOD story on the second vote is upcoming.

Mother Rosie and Charles Lewis, 1977.

VOD is also working on a story about the Michigan Supreme Court’s July 11 ruling in the case of People v. Walker, which thoroughly exposes the appalling courtroom practices of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard, who  is also presiding over the juvenile lifer re-sentencing of Charles Lewis, a case VOD has been following for nearly 4 years.

A mitigation hearing on Lewis in front of Lillard, Rm. 502, Frank Murphy Hall, is scheduled for Fri. July 19 at 9am.

Please donate what you can to keep VOD going, at  We just paid our quarterly web-hosting fee of $359 and have numerous other expenses, including gas costs for our reporters to travel to Benton Harbor, where the state is trying to demolish Benton Harbor High School to take over prime waterfront land.

Flint resident Ariana Hawk and daughter Aliana, 4.

Criminal charges including genocide in Flint still need to be brought against former Gov. Snyder and his EM’s, who have taken over most of the assets of majority-Black cities in Michigan. One VOD story on the poisoning of an entire city exposed the real causes of the Flint water crisis:

Thelonious ‘Shawn” Searcy

Aiyana Jones, 7, and her dad Charles Jones.

It costs VOD $2.25 a PAGE to get copies of court records related to cases such as those of Charles Lewis, Charles Jones, and Thelonious “Shawn” Searcy, covered for years by this paper.

VOD continues to fight this POLICE STATE and PRISON NATION in its coverage of juvenile lifer re-sentencing and mass incarceration. Dozens of juvenile lifers are still rotting in Michigan prisons despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in Miller v. Alabama (2012) and Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016), because county prosecutors recommended so many for renewed life sentences for them, They refuse to fund required experts in their cases as they have for JLWOPer’s recommended for terms of years. 

Recent stories with a variety of other topics as well include:


























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Charles Jones, father of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, killed by Detroit police May 16, 2010, hears terms of plea agreement reducing his sentences in the related killing of Je’Rean Blake. His atty. Leon Weiss is at center, with AP Mark Hindelang at right. Third Judicial Circuit Court Judge Wanda Evans set re-sentencing for July 26, 2019 at 9 a.m. Jones, Aiyana’s mother Dominika Stanley and two toddler brothers were in his mother Mertilla Jones’ home when a Detroit Police “Special Response Team”  shot Aiyana in the head several seconds after entry. They had a warrant only for the upstairs flat where Chauncey Owens, the target of the raid, lived. A&E’s “The First 48” filmed two days of preparations for the raid and the raid itself.  Aiyana’s killer, DPD Officer Joseph Weekley, a featured A&E star, walked free after two mistrials in front of Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway.

Jones’ 40-60 yr. sentence for 2nd degree murder reduced to manslaughter, 10-20 yrs. concurrent with 10-20 years perjury sentence, with credit for time served since 2011

Hopefully they’ll let him go with time served, the best possible outcome; his earliest release is in 2021. He’s held on this long, a model prisoner, and hasn’t seen his 5 sons since 2011.”–mother Mertilla Jones

COA granted Jones a new trial Aug. 30, 2012 based on contradictory jury instructions resulting in contradictory verdicts; MSC refused leave to appeal

“We fought real hard to win this appeal”–Defense atty. Leon Weiss of Fieger law firm

Charles Jones with his first-born chIld and only daughter Aiyana Jones in happier times.

DETROIT— Police forced Charles Damon Jones, father of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, to crawl through broken glass and bits of his only daughter’s brains and blood after DPD cop Joseph Weekley shot the child to death with an MP-5 submachine gun May 16, 2010 during a horrific midnight raid on her grandmother Mertilla Jones’ home.

They were looking for Chauncey Owens, who lived in the flat upstairs, for the murder of 17-year-old Je’Rean Blake two days earlier. They had no warrant for the Jones home or Jones.

As the community reacted to Aiyana’s death with outrage, the police and prosecutor put Jones in their cross-hairs instead of Weekley, a star on A&E’s “First 48,” which had cameras rolling during the raid.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Jones with second-degree murder and perjury in Blake’s death, largely based on the testimony of two “jail-house snitches,” which the late Judge Richard Skutt tried unsuccessfully to bar on a motion from Weiss. Jones, now 34, who also has five young sons, was sentenced to 40 to 60 years on the murder charge and 10 to 20 for perjury.

Joseph Weekley, Jr. in SWAT-style uniform, photo from the website of A&E’s “The First 48.”

“All you’re doing is trying to cover up my daughter’s death because of a reckless officer, but like Aiyana I refuse to be a victim,” Jones told prosecutors during his sentencing in 2014.  “I hope you go after him like you did after me. Here you are judging me like I’m not human.”

A “one-man grand jury” composed of then-Chief Criminal Judge Timothy Kenny charged Weekley only with involuntary manslaughter and reckless use of a firearm.   He walked free after two mistrials declared by Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway, despite testimony from a firearms expert and others that his gun could not have discharged “accidentally.”

During the years after the death of Aiyana Jones, the mainstream media has continued to claim that the child was killed “accidentally.”

However, during one hearing in the Weekley trial, a Wayne Co. medical examiner testified that the reason for the lack of gunpowder “stippling” around Aiyana’s gunshot wound  “could have been” the result of a direct contact shot.  She was shot within seconds of the time a “flash-bang” explosive was tossed into the front window onto the couch where she was sleeping with her grandmother.

Detroit cop Joseph Weekley shot Aiyana Jones, 7 to death May 16, 2010 (depiction from atty. Geoffrey Fieger’s office.)

The defense had sought to claim that Weekley shot her from a distance, first contending that Mertilla Jones caused the shot by forcing Weekley’s gun back in defense of her granddaughter. Jones had been sleeping on the right end of the front room couch. That is what Weekley testified to during his trial.

That claim was discounted by independent autopsy results showing that the bullet entered the top of the child’s head as shown in the depiction at right. The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office later officially accepted that result.

The City of Detroit settled a civil claim against it and Weekley for $8.2 million last month, which indicated a drastic change in the city’s official stance on the case. 

The Jones family had endured years of vilification in the mainstream media and on talk shows as the city and police sought to blame the victims for Aiyana’s tragic death. The DPD kept up a constant campaign of harassment, frequently arresting Aiyana’s relatives on bogus charges.

Jay Schlenkerman testifies falsely at Charles Jones’ preliminary exam.

VOD was the only media outlet that researched and reported the background of the chief “snitch” who testified against Jones at his preliminary exam,  Jay Schlenkerman. He lied during exam, stating that he had one felony conviction when in fact he had seven according to court records.

His offenses included drunk driving and violence against women. He was in prison with Chauncey Owens on an original charge of kidnapping and torturing his then girl-friend. But the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office reduced that charge to misdemeanor domestic violence after Schlenkerman agreed to testify that Owens told him Jones gave him the gun to kill Blake.

Owens never said that himself. At Owens’ trial, during which a separate jury was seated, the prosecution showed a video of his first interrogation by the DPD after the May 16, 2010 raid and murder of Aiyana. Owens named someone else as the individual who gave him a gun. Police interrogators also headed off expected statements from Owens regarding the role of his brother Sherrod Heard played in the death of Blake. Heard, who lived across the street from the Jones family, was present when Blake was killed and was known to have a conflict with Blake over a girl.

Schlenkerman has been back in prison at the Chippewa Correctional Facility since 2014, serving a term of six to 10 years for a third offense of operating while intoxicated, and fleeing and eluding police.


Charles Jones’ family including (2nd from left) his mother Mertilla Jones, sister Krystal Jones, son Semaj Jones, mother of three of his sons Dominique Simpson, and cousin Kiarra Hardy (far r), listen as plea agreement is described in court July 9, 2019.

On July 9, Jones, his attorney Leon Weiss of the Fieger law firm, and AP Mark Hindelang agreed to a plea deal for Jones in lieu of a new trial ordered by the Michigan Court of Appeals in April, 2012. See COA ruling at 

Judge Wanda Evans

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wanda Evans accepted the statement of the agreement, and set sentencing for Friday, July 26 at 9 a.m.

Jones and his family welcomed the deal, in which he pled “nolo contendere” to manslaughter for a sentence of 10-20 years, to be served concurrently with the perjury sentence. After sentencing July 26, Jones should have time served since 2011 applied to that sentence. His earliest release date would now be in 2021, but his family hopes for time served according to his mother. 

Jones did not allocute to the offense. AP Hindelang read the terms of the agreement into the record, that “on May 14, 2010 Jones (provided) a handgun to Chauncey Owens knowingly creating a high risk of death or great bodily harm. … within minutes of receiving (the) handgun Mr. Owens shot 17-year-old Je’rean Blake … and Mr. Blake died from those gunshot wounds.”

Weiss told VOD, “We fought HARD for that appeals verdict.” The COA ruled that the jury’s verdict of guilty on the murder charge and not guilty on a firearms charge was inconsistent due to faulty jury instructions.  

The Michigan Supreme Court refused to hear Worthy’s appeal.

Aiyana Jones’ father Charles Jones and Dominique Simpson grieve in front of shattered window as child’s aunt watches. Photo by Diane Bukowski

The chief element in the prosecution’s murder charge was a claim that Jones had given Owens the gun with which he killed Blake. But during Owens’ trial in front of a separate jury, the prosecution played a police video taken after Owens’ arrest May 17, 2010 in which Owens named a different man as the provider of the gun. Jones’ jury never saw that video.

Weiss also said the “nolo contendere” plea meant that Jones did not have to give up his innocence claim for legal purposes. He and Jones’ family said essentially that they felt another trial, in light of previous negative publicity against their family, was too chancy.

Lyvonne Cargill, the mother of Je’Rean Blake, was present during the hearing but did not comment.

Mertilla Jones expressed the Jones’ family’s hopeful sentiments in the video below. She has worked for years with the group Protect Our Stolen Treasures, which includes Kevin Kellom and the family of his son Terrance Kellom, 20.

A Detroit police sergeant recently reversed his initial report on the raid, saying that Kellom had no hammer or other weapon in his hand when a multi-agency task force opened fire. P.O.S.T., led by Yolanda McNair, plans an annual national event July 12-14 this weekend in Detroit. (See flier below story.)

“It’s always valuable to be proactive inside these walls,” Jones wrote to VOD after his Circuit Court victory in 2012. “I’ve been taking all this in stride, and trying not to fall victim again, as well as teaching my sons through the phone. It presents a challenge, but it’s a challenge I’ll welcome anytime when it comes to my children. 

Remember Aiyana Stanley Jones.

“I am so happy that I can finally have a fair shot at my freedom once again! I know it’s not just cut free, but everybody does not get a second chance as I’ve seen throughout the years I’ve been in here. So thank God, for this chance He’s been giving me.” 

Jones also campaigned with members of the National Lifers Association in support of last year’s “Good Time” bills in the state legislature. They would have restored credits to prisoners based on every month served without disciplinary action, a practice that existed until 1978. “Good time” increased the longer a person served. After two decades, “regular ‘good time’” could equal 15 days a month.

Jones’ excellent prison record was achieved in the face of his unbearable grief for his first-born child. His family celebrates her birthday every year.

Some members of Charles Jones’ family who came out to support him in court were (l to r), his cousin Kiarra Hardy, mother Mertilla Jones, son Semaj Jones, Dominique Simpson (mother of three sons), his oldest son Charles Jones, Jr. and his sister Krystal Jones. Another family member gives the victory sign at right.

Rafael Jones, 14, leads march for Justice for Aiyana and Charles Jones April 23 2012 at Frank Murphy Hall in downtown Detroit, grandmother Mertilla Jones at left, aunt LaKrystal Sanders at right.


POST members and supporters block Woodward Avenue during protest Sept. 24, 2016, as dozens of cars honked their horns in support. They included Arnetta Grable, mother of Lamar Grable, Mertilla Jones, grandmother of Aiyana Jones, Kevin Kellom, father of Terrance Kellom, and Yolanda McNair, mother of Adaisha Miller.


Donations for the Voice of Detroit are urgently needed to keep this paper, which is published pro bono, going. Among ongoing expenses are quarterly Lunar Pages web host charges of $350, costs for court documents, internet fees, office supplies, gas, etc. Please, if you can:



Aiyana Jones stories from VOD, Final Call, Michigan Citizen

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Members of the Anti-Bully Crusader Project at Flint Northwestern High School. (Exec. Director Lauren Washington at center.)


Project founded by 23-year MDOC prisoner and daughter goes national, wants to make all schools “Bully-Free Safe Zones”

GOAL: to make all schools “Bully-Free Safe Zones”

VOD staff writer Ricardo Ferrell

2 out of 9 teens who commit suicide do so as a result of “bullying”

By Ricardo Ferrell

July 5, 2019

LeRoy Washington, an inmate within the Michigan Department of Corrections, has spent the last 23 years of his life behind bars. His time served has not been wasted.

LeRoy has been involved in the field of personal development for over two decades. Since his incarceration he has earned a MBA in Business Administration-Management from California Coast University’s Distant Learning Program and is currently working on a Doctorate’s in Education. Upon completion he will become the first MDOC inmate to earn such honors from an accredited school while incarcerated.

Leroy Washington, co-founder of Anti-Bullying Project

As an aspiring author, cutting-edge teacher, mentor, motivational speaker, and peace advocate, he spreads his energy-filled message of power, potential, and positive change in prisons to younger inmates and vicariously through others to schools, youth centers, churches, and nonprofit organizations.

In his personal and professional pursuit of coaching and developing young people, he has created an unique approach to address one of the most pressing and fundamental issues involving young people today –Bullying.

In a program he calls the Anti-Bullying Crusaders Project (ABC), LeRoy dynamically and effortlessly imparts the most thought-provoking and profound truths of the human bullying experience. Prepare to be inspired, entertained, transformed by this close encounter interview:

Q & A: with VOD reporter Ricardo Ferrell and ABC Co-founder LeRoy Washington.


A- LeRoy: The Anti-Bullying Crusaders (ABC) Project is a social movement that takes a realistic approach towards the growing epidemic of bullying in America. Our goal is to eradicate bullying and to start by making all our learning institutions “Bully Free Safe Zones.”


Lauren Washington,, Exec. Director Anti-Bullying Crusaders Project

A – LeRoy: ABC has created an effective model and mechanism for teaching and learning. Our hope is to provide educational opportunities and support systems that enhance the future and impact the lives of our young people. Our therapeutic self-help course provides participants with instructions on how to curtail intimidation, crush cruelty, and reduce violence. This groundbreaking interactive program equips young people with the personal life skills and tools necessary to develop positive thinking, attitude, and behavior toward peace, acceptance and tolerance.


A – LeRoy: It was actually my daughter’s idea. During her freshman year she was working on a research paper and came across some startling information about bully related suicides. Did you know according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) that upwards of 4,400 teenagers commit suicide annually and 2 out of 9 as a result of an act of bullying? The statistics are startling, she said.

“Dad, acts of violence and cruelty among my peers are at an all time high. We gotta do something!”

I didn’t know what to do! But she was determined and reminded me of a value I imparted upon her before she went off to college. “Dad, don’t you remember what you said to me? Each of us has a moral obligation to make the world a little bit better than we inherited it for the next generation…. When we live life righteously we not only increase the quality of our own lives, but the value of life increases for everyone we encounter.”

So I asked her, “What you want to do?” Back then I was working in a program mentoring youth offenders and HYTA’s (Holmes Youthful Training Act) prisoners in Lapeer at the Thumb Correctional Facility. She suggested that I bundle my experiences into a curriculum and she and her fellow students would create a platform to reach the masses. Thus ABC was founded ( The rest is history.

Being incarcerated, the MDOC won’t let me be a major part of ABC or anything positive in the real world. So, I just write corrective curriculums and provide a little advice here and there. Of course, all free of charge. This is my way of giving back, somewhat of a partial repayment to society.


A- LeRoy: We owe that opportunity to many of the Michigan Community Leaders. In Flint, Michigan, Principal Kelly Fields and Tracey Fountain of DHHS had a group of young men and women whom they thought would benefit from participating in the anti-bullying workshop. Ms. Fountain reached out to ABC. Tracy Palmer of Trendsetters did a wonderful job of training the facilitators, teaching and overseeing the sessions.

In Detroit, Michigan, we worked with a dynamic young man Shawn T. Blanchard and his brother Doug Little to host a seminar at the Martin Luther King High School. In Pontiac, Michigan, we worked with Sandra Rolle, the founder of Great Lakes Charter School.

In Detroit, Michigan, we worked with a dynamic young man Shawn T. Blanchard and his brother Doug Little to host a seminar at the Martin Luther King High School. In Pontiac, Michigan, we worked with Sandra Rolle, the founder of Great Lakes Charter School.

I have to thank the ABC staff. None of this would have been possible without you. I didn’t know educating is so expensive. Someone has to absorb the cost. After some creative fundraising by the ABC girls they were able to provide these opportunities to Michigan schools. This up and coming year we hope to expand our base to Michigan full time. This effort will be spearheaded by a Lansing Public School Teacher Patricia Reed and her group out of Lansing.


A – LeRoy: I am not going to lie to you big brah. Being in prison you know I get a kick out of working with beautiful educated diverse women, LOL. Working with all these dynamic women was a fringe benefit and has been both educating and validating. I learned so much. Each of them are unique and phenomenal. They all bring something to the table and have a great passion to do their part to help change and save young people lives. But I guess the most rewarding part has been in seeing my work in action, helping others.

Getting bullied is not always an easy conversation for a child or young adult to have with a parent, teacher, or person of authority. Sometimes it takes an expert to shed light on the subject. Over the years, what I’ve learned is that once we are able to break down the walls and build trust, the magic of transformation begins. You’d be amazed at what you see when you get an objective glimpse of the world from their (young participants’) perspectives. When I read their journal entries…their expressions are a cry and plea for help. Many of our young people are saying, “I want to be different, I want to change, but I don’t know how!” Its our job to give them the tools and teach them HOW! Its no better feeling knowing that you have impacted the lives of our young people in a positive way.


Tracy Palmer of Trendsetters (r) facilitates ABC graduation.

A – LeRoy: My immediate personal goals are to finish up my schooling. I’m looking forward to earning my Ph.D. I’m also working on a biography, another corrective behavior curriculum, publishing my children’s nursery rhyme book, and helping scale ABC nationally… all that on top of my responsibility of teaching in here. Yeah, my plate is full, but I’ve always been taught that “Where more is given, more is expected in return.” So, I’m grateful to God for all that I have been blessed with, including the responsibilities that I’ve been entrusted with.

As far as ABC goes. . . .Our aim is to challenge people to change for the better by giving them tools and resources to do so and to create bully free safe zones in all schools. No child should have to go to school and be bullied. This culture has to change and it’s up to us (the people) to change it.

Dr. Pepper Arena in Dallas, Texas

ABC’s next big project is the “Bullying Stops Here!” with a fundraising rally during the National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month of October in Dallas, Texas.

This year we are hosting a free Anti-Bullying Seminar and Celebrity Basketball Game at the Dr. Pepper Arena. Our goal this year is to raise $2 million to reach and teach 10,000 students during the 2020 school year. So, we are calling on all individuals, corporations, small businesses, schools, religious organizations, and other nonprofits to support this effort. What could be a better cause than saving the lives of our young people?


A – LeRoy: Interesting. I just finished a book by the phenomenal young man I mentioned earlier: “HOW ‘BOUT THAT FOR A ‘CRACK BABY’ KEYS TO MENTORSHIP AND SUCCESS” by Shawn T. Blanchard. His humble beginnings depict a similar story faced by so many of our urban city youth. Many of us are born into or live in an environment of poverty, drugs, thieves, violence, death, loneliness, and a lack of guidance. In spite of all this he chose to rise above his conditions and circumstances. He chose success.

And beyond that he has used his education and experiences to create a platform to do what I aspire to do…save the lives of our youth. After reading his book, I have that much more admiration for him as a young black man who has chosen to empower himself as well as others. While I have worked with him and vicariously through him I’ve never met him personally. I look forward to that day…just to say thank you young man for your works and for being a great example to our youth.

RICARDO’s FINAL NOTES: Thanks for chopping it up with VOD. Man you been busy! Congrats on all your accomplishments. We like what you are doing in the community, keep up the good work and we wish you and ABC much success with the program. i’d like to get an interview with your daughter. Can you hook me up? And last but not least, would you care to leave us with one last wise thought?

ABC student and facilitator

LeRoy’s response: All Praises be to God! Through Him all things are possible. Thanks to you and Voice of Detroit for having me. Of course I can hook you up with that interview. It would be my pleasure and an honor. I’ll leave you with this, “Our parenting is literally a fight for the lives of our children. It is a noble fight that must be fought hard and relentlessly. It’s not always easy, but when you can touch the lives of a few in a positive way, it is so rewarding. If we can help a few of these young people realize their potential and give them the tools to become change agents, we would have made a difference. Prevention is the way, because damage control is far more costly.”

Ricardo: There you heard it from the man himself. The ABC project is an evolving set of projects that provide educational opportunities and creative strategies that curtail intimidation, crush cruelty, and help to reduce violence. The program demonstrates the potential for dynamic collaborations between students, facilitators, and other prominent figures of the community. Most importantly, through this unique exchange, the ABC Project seeks to deepen the dialogue – transform ways of thinking about being a bully, victim, or witness in society as a whole. ABC needs our support!!

For more information about how you can support, donate, become an independent fundraiser for ABC’s “Bullying Stops Here” Campaign or if you would like to bring a workshop or seminar to your school or community visit ABC’s website at: or Facebook/AntibullyCrusaders or Instagram@Antibullycrusaders.

ABC hosts forum-rally at Martin Luther King, Sr. High School in Detroit.

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Flint resident Ariana Hawk consoles her daughter Aliana, 4, nearing the end of a two-hour community meeting with Flint water prosecutors at UAW Local 659, June 28, in Flint, Mich. Hawk is the mother of Sincere Smith, who graced the cover of Time magazine at the height of the Flint water crisis in 2016. Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy spoke to about 100 residents at a union hall in the city. Photos: Jake May/ Flint Journal via AP

By Bryan 18X Crawford | Last updated: Jul 2, 2019 – 11:00:30 AM

About 100 people filed into UAW Local 659 hall in Flint, Mich., to get a formal update and explanation as to why the new team of prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against city and state officials who had a hand in creating the worst ecological disasters to affect Black people in this country in recent memory.

The officials showed up on a Friday, June 28, to talk to Flint residents who have been without clean and safe drinking water for more than five years, and it’s been three years since those responsible were hit with criminal charges for the decision. But in mid-June, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, led by the newly-elected Dana Nessell, dismissed all criminal charges against those who played a role in the water crisis. A total of 15 state and local officials had been charged with crimes as serious as involuntary manslaughter, with eight still awaiting trial before the legal maneuver was made. Seven others have already taken plea deals. 

Wayne Co. Pros. Kym Worthy (l) and Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud (center) try to justifying dropping charges in Flint water case.

Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy stood in front of the audience and tried to justify their controversial decision.

“We know that you have concerns. We know that you have questions. And quite frankly we know that you’re angry,” Mrs. Hammoud told the crowd. “We know that there are many deaths out there, yet to be investigated. And it is our obligation- when we accepted this position, when we take an oath to represent the people of the state of Michigan-to investigate those deaths. Those families deserve it.”

Ms. Hammoud said that within a month’s time, their own investigation team uncovered approximately 20 million documents the previous prosecutorial team seemed to have been unable to find in the three years they worked on the case. She blamed Andy Arena, the former director of the FBI’s Detroit office, for failing to properly handle all searches related to critical documents. “We have received information that is absolutely relevant to our investigation that we have never had before … . There were some phone dumps we never had. And the first thing we said, ‘If we don’t have this, what else don’t we have?’ ” asked Ms. Hammoud.

Representatives of the Michigan Attorney General’s office showed the audience a number of heavily redacted, critical documents related to the case that were uncovered during their review of the previous file. Kym Worthy, who was brought in by Attorney General Nessel to help with jumpstarting the new investigation, told the audience about the newly-discovered documents. “I’ve never seen anything like it. That causes questions. Was this a real investigation?” she asked.

Katia Kenney, 18 of Flint, Mich., volunteers as she loads cases of water into vehicles as non-profit Pack Your Back distributes more than 37,000 bottles of water on Monday, April 22, 2019, at Dort Federal Event Center in Flint. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

As much as $31 million of taxpayer money has already been spent on the previous investigation and legal proceedings. News of the dropped charges was not only a blow to the people of Flint, but added to a strong feeling of distrust of both city and state political leaders, and a feeling of despair that after their 62-month-long, ongoing struggle, justice may never be served. 

“They didn’t come to the community. We had reporters call to tell us that the charges were dropped and they wanted to know what our response was. Then we read about it in the paper,” Claire McClinton, a Flint resident and one of the driving forces in getting the story out to the world, told The Final Call.

Marijoyce Campbell, a 65-year-old lifelong Flint resident, sheds tears as she gets choked up after speaking her mind during a community meeting with Flint water prosecutors on Friday, June 28, 2019 at UAW Local 659 in Flint, two weeks after dismissing the charges in the criminal cases. “I have a heavy heart right now,” Campbell said. “It hurts (to hear) what you have said to us … Please tell me (now) that some heads are going to roll.” (Jake May | 

During the meeting, when the floor was opened for residents to ask questions and speak their minds, the frustration and pain in the voices of those who took the microphone was palpable.

“Do you not realize how it felt when you released to the press dropping the charges without coming here first? Without any kind of communication?” Laura McIntyre asked angrily while addressing Ms. Hammoud. “You could have at least have said, we’re going to be doing something, but we can’t talk about it [right now]. Just any kind of acknowledgment that we existed before going to the press. And then waiting 15 days to have this meeting, it really hurt. It really did a lot to destroy a lot of trust.”

Arthur Woodson, a community activist and the first Flint resident to speak that evening, was unhappy with the terms of already accepted plea deals. “They got less time for poisoning over 98,000 people than somebody stealing a slice of pizza. People are dying. It’s hard to trust,” he said.

“I cannot believe something like this can happen,” added lifelong Flint resident Marijoyce Campbell, fighting back tears. “Please, please tell me some heads are going to roll; that somebody is going to pay for all this murder, all this criminal activity.”

“I just feel they should’ve continued with the charges they already had,” Audrey Muhammad, a Flint resident who has been advocating for justice for the people of the city, told The Final Call. “The reason I say they should’ve kept going is this: Because this has been stretched out for so long, I don’t feel like there will be a true conviction on higher charges.”

Adding to the concern expressed by Ms. Muhammad is the fact that the statute of limitations on many of the charges are set to expire in approximately nine months. Ms. Worthy, however, tried to assure all of those in the room that justice would be pursued properly and much faster.

Detroit attorney Cynthia M. Lindsey stands alongside her clients Buffi Clements, 42 at center, and her sister Brandi as they talk about the death of their father Joseph C. Clements, who passed away from kidney cancer in July 2017 during a rally on the five-year anniversary of the Flint water crisis on Thursday, April 25, 2019 outside of the Flint water plant. Buffi Clements said their family believes his cancer was caused by drinking Flint tap water following the switch, and are currently part of a class action lawsuit. (Jake May |

“We can’t tell you where we’re going to go, we can’t tell you where it’s going to lead, we’re going to go where the facts and evidence lead us,” she said. “I know that’s been repetitive but that’s the truth. Anything else would be irresponsible.”

While the initial cause of the problem, the switching of the water supply sourced from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the highly polluted Flint River has been corrected, and a number of infrastructure repairs related to corroded pipes done, city residents are still relying on bottled water for their basic, everyday needs.

Bill Schuette, the former attorney general for the state of Michigan, defended his team’s investigation and the way it was handled. “We took the steps that preserved the evidence in this case. And our work was not done,” he said in a statement. “Two judges bound significant cases over for trial. And we were prepared to go forward with robust prosecutions. But this is not about prosecutor versus prosecutor. This has always been, and only been, a fight for justice for the families of Flint. We acknowledge it’s their case now and we wish them success in their pursuit of justice for the people of Flint.”

Yonasda Lonewolf

Some water activists are convinced the motive behind this disaster was a sinister one and bigger than the town of Flint, Mich. They see a battle brewing across the country and all over the world when it comes to water.

“People have to understand that water is the new money. It’s the new gold. People are actually investing in water,” Yonasda Lonewolf, an activist who organized and protested in both Standing Rock and Flint, told The Final Call. 

Dakota Access Pipeline protests began in early 2016 in reaction to the approved construction of an oil pipeline in the northern United States. Native American tribes worried about plans to run the pipeline from oil fields in North Dakota to southern Illinois, under the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and beneath Lake Oahe near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Many Native Americans saw the pipeline as a threat to clean water and to ancient burial grounds. Massive protests were held in opposition to the pipeline in 2016. The pipeline was eventually completed in 2017 through the actions of the Trump administration. But military and police violence against protestors and indigenous “Water Protectors” was stunning during the months of opposition.

“But why are people investing in water?” asked Ms. Lonewolf. “Because these corporations and greedy government officials are fighting to control the water … . I understand that, of course, they’re not going to give the people of Flint justice on their number one investment. So, with that being said, there have been so many people who have left and moved out of Flint, and the people who have stayed are poor and live below the poverty level. So they’re just waiting for them to leave because outside investors have already started to come into Flint for redevelopment.”

One of many protests conducted to stop the building of the Dakota pipeline on native territory.

“I’ve stopped paying attention to what the politicians and everyone else has been saying and I’ve been trying to work on getting our people to understand about separation and that they’ve got to be prepared to do something for themselves,” Audrey Muhammad said. “We have to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves in this situation because we don’t know how long it’s going to take. But you still have some of our people who say, ‘No, they’re going to make this right. They’ve got to make this right.’ Well, while you’re saying that, what are you going to do in the meantime? Are you just going to allow yourself to die while you’re waiting on them to give you justice? Or are you going to get up and start doing things for yourself?”

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Related stories from VOD, other media:


#BoycottMichigan, #Beatbackthebullies, #Blacklivesmatter, #BlacklivesmatterDetroit, #Detroit2Flint, #StopWaronBlackAmerica, #Waterislife, #Flintlivesmatter, #JailSnyder, #OurWaterOurVote, #Saveourchildren, #SaveDetroit, #SaveFlint, #SavePontiac, #SaveBentonHarbor, #SaveHighlandPark

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) holds a news conference to discuss major college affordability legislation in Washington on Monday June 24, 2019. Co-sponsors, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) flank Sanders (Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

“In the face of this crisis, nothing short of a complete overhaul of our public higher education system will suffice.”

“We must treat education as the public good that it is. That means making public colleges and universities tuition-free, just as public K-12 schools are today. It also means hitting the ‘reset button’ on student loan debt.”letter

 By Jake Johnson, staff writer

June 26, 2019

More than 100 academics endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders’s tuition-free college and debt cancellation proposal on Wednesday, hailing the plan as the kind of ambitious solution that is needed to tackle soaring higher education costs and provide relief to the millions of Americans drowning in student loans.

In a letter to Congress first obtained by The American Prospect, a mix of education, economic, and legal experts said Sanders’s College for All Act “would benefit the entire economy, improving life not only for those who will feel immediate relief as borrowers, current students, and their loved ones.”

“To some, this will appear too radical. To us, it is the bold solution we need,” the academics said of the bill, which Sanders—a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate—introduced in the Senate Monday alongside Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who unveiled similar legislation in the House.

The group of experts—which included Columbia University economics professor Jeffrey Sachs, Stony Brook University economics professor Stephanie Kelton, and Ohio University public affairs professor Darrick Hamilton—said the “unimaginable 3,819 percent” rise in the annual cost of attending a four-year public college over the past five decades calls for immediate and far-reaching government action.

“While it did not begin in 2008, the student debt problem grew significantly in the decade following the financial crisis, as millions of young people graduated into an economy that was spiraling into the worse economic downturn since the Great Depression,” the academics wrote. “In the face of this crisis, nothing short of a complete overhaul of our public higher education system will suffice. We must treat education as the public good that it is.”

Chicago students call for free college for all.

As Common Dreams reported on Monday, Sanders’s plan would wipe out the $1.6 trillion of student loan debt that is held by 45 million Americans.

To finance his legislation, Sanders proposed a new tax on speculative Wall Street transactions.

In a statement on Thursday, Sanders thanked the academics for backing his legislation.

“These scholars are saying what millions of young people already know from their own experience: the Wall Street crash of 2008 devastated the economic prospects of an entire generation,” Sanders said. “If we do not act boldly and decisively, these young people will face lower living standards than their parents enjoyed. Our College for All Act will boost our economy and offer real opportunity for our people. And the cost will be borne entirely by speculators on Wall Street.”

Read the full letter:

Dear senators and representatives:

We are academics and researchers who strongly endorse legislation to provide tuition-free public higher education and cancel all student debt. Here’s why.

1964 and 2019, the average annual cost of attending a four-year public college or university soared by an unimaginable 3,819 percent. This disastrous trend reflects a broad array of policy failures. The current situation undermines economic security and tears at the fabric of social justice in America. It must not be allowed to continue. By failing to adequately invest in higher education, governments have shifted a greater share of the financial burden onto those trying to advance their studies. Many young people were priced out of higher education altogether, forcing them to abandon their dreams of getting the education they want and need. More than 45 million others took on student loan debt that now stands near a staggering $1.6 trillion. Continue reading

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An Open Letter to the 2020 Presidential Candidates: It’s Time to Tax Us More

Published on

 The following is an open letter from a group of wealthy Americans who should be affected by a wealth tax. It does not imply an endorsement for any candidate.


JUNE 24, 2019

 Note: The following nonpartisan letter is written in support of a policy solution, and cosigning this letter does not represent an endorsement of any presidential candidate.

TO: 2020 Presidential Candidates:

We are writing to call on all candidates for President, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, to support a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest 1/10 of the richest 1% of Americans — on us. The next dollar of new tax revenue should come from the most financially fortunate, not from middle-income and lower-income Americans.

Protesters are rallying across the U.S. to demand funding for education, end to mass incarceration. U.S. has 5 % of world’s population, 25 % of its incarcerated population. Schools, not prisons!

America has a moral, ethical and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more. A wealth tax could help address the climate crisis, improve the economy, improve health outcomes, fairly create opportunity, and strengthen our democratic freedoms. Instituting a wealth tax is in the interest of our republic.

Polls show that a moderate tax on the wealthiest Americans enjoys the support of a majority of Americans — Republicans, Independents, and Democrats.[i] We hope that candidates for President will also recognize the force of the idea and join with most Americans in supporting it. Some ideas are too important for America to be part of only a few candidates’ platforms.

The concept of a wealth tax isn’t new: Millions of middle-income Americans already pay a wealth tax each year in the form of property taxes on their primary form of wealth — their home. The kind of moderate tax on the richest 1/10 of 1% that we support just asks us to pay a small wealth tax on the primary source of our wealth as well.

Several candidates for President, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Representative Beto O’Rourke, are already supportive of the idea. The first specific candidate proposal, introduced by Senator Warren, would provide millions of families with a better shot at the American dream by taxing only 75,000 of the wealthiest families in the country.[ii] The proposal is straightforward: It puts in place a tax of 2 cents on the dollar on assets after a $50 million exemption and an additional tax of 1 cent on the dollar on assets over $1 billion. If you have $49.9 million or less you are not paying the tax. It is estimated to generate nearly $3 trillion in tax revenue over ten years.[iii][iv]

This revenue could substantially fund the cost of smart investments in our future, like clean energy innovation to mitigate climate change, universal child care, student loan debt relief, infrastructure modernization, tax credits for low-income families, public health solutions, and other vital needs.

Residents of Charleston rally at state capital demanding “tax the rich.”

That a moderate tax on a minuscule number of Americans could raise so much revenue simply reflects historic levels of wealth among America’s richest.[v] The top 1/10 of 1% of households now have almost as much wealth as all Americans in the bottom 90%. Those of us signing this letter enjoy uncommon fortunes, but each of us wants to live in an America that solves the biggest challenges of our common future.

We are in favor of a wealth tax for at least six key reasons:

A Wealth Tax Is a Powerful Tool for Solving Our Climate Crisis.

In addition to better rules on carbon pollution, more American investment is needed now to tackle climate change.[vi][vii] This could both accelerate innovation and speed implementation of solutions that create a clean energy economy and a low-carbon future. A wealth tax asks those of us who have benefitted most from our economic system to help fix one of its most devastating and fatal flaws.

A Wealth Tax Is an Economic Winner for America.

It would be a powerful instrument for greater economic growth and success. Reinvested both across America and among those less wealthy than ourselves, a wealth tax would extend prosperity. Along with resources for climate crisis investments, America needs a revenue source for other public investments in addition to private investment and philanthropy. 

Greater public investment in America’s aging infrastructure, child care, and education will not only solve important problems but will also increase productivity in the long run and promote sustained and broad-based economic growth.[viii] Easing student debt would boost entrepreneurship and homeownership rates, which have significantly declined as the costs of higher education have skyrocketed.[ix] A wealth tax could help with innovation and job creation — America’s entrepreneurial economy, despite its many successes, needs strengthening.[x] Put simply, a wealth tax would strengthen the American economy in ways that benefit all Americans.

A Wealth Tax Will Make Americans Healthier.

Use public taxes to fund free health care for all!

America’s most experienced public health experts point out that more resources are needed for major public health challenges like cardiovascular disease, the nation’s top killer, and high levels of opioid addiction.[xi] High rates of inequality have been linked to lower life expectancies.[xii] The wealthiest Americans are now estimated to live up to 15 years longer than the poorest Americans, and individuals living in disadvantaged communities are more likely to die before the age of 75, regardless of their income level.[xiii] With a modest tax on the most wealthy families to fund investments creating opportunities for lower-income and middle-income families, we can improve public health outcomes and extend life expectancies.

A Wealth Tax Is Fair.

Warren Buffett

A wealth tax would help close the large gap in effective tax rates between very rich families and everyone else. Warren Buffett has pointed out that he is taxed at a lower rate than his secretary. The top 1/10 of 1% are projected to pay 3.2% of their wealth in taxes this year, while the bottom 99% of households are projected to pay 7.2%.[xiv] This imbalance creates resentment and makes it harder for working-class Americans to achieve social mobility. Taxing extraordinary wealth should be a greater priority than taxing hard work. The most fortunate should contribute more.

A Wealth Tax Strengthens American Freedom and Democracy.

It would slow the growing concentration of wealth that undermines the stability and integrity of our republic. Countries with high levels of economic inequality are more likely to concentrate political power and become plutocratic.[xv] The founders of America knew this, and feared that an economic elite might become ensconced as leaders and erode the effectiveness of the republic.[xvi] Today, major policies seldom come to pass without the prior support of wealthy elites or other wealthy interests.[xvii] Division and dissatisfaction are exacerbated by inequality, leading to higher levels of distrust in democratic institutions — and worse.[xviii] That’s one reason we don’t view a wealth tax as a sacrifice on our part: We believe instituting a wealth tax would lead to political, social, and economic stability, strengthening and safeguarding America’s democratic freedoms.

A Wealth Tax Is Patriotic.

Historically, the U.S. has taxed the rich at much higher rates.

In our republic, it is the patriotic duty of all Americans to contribute what they can to the success of the country, and the wealthiest are no exception. Others have put far more on the line for America. Those of us in the richest 1/10 of the richest 1% should be proud to pay a bit more of our fortune forward to America’s future. We’ll be fine — taking on this tax is the least we can do to strengthen the country we love.

What about the arguments against a wealth tax? They are mostly technical and often overstated.

Some raise important questions about implementation and enforcement. But as the Warren proposal shows, we can limit potential evasion and reduce tax cheating by building on lessons learned in the United States and other countries. Others question whether assets owned by many ultra-millionaires and billionaires, including private equity and art collections, can be accurately assessed for tax purposes. But such assets are frequently valued — upon resale, donation, bankruptcy, divorce, or death.

Elizabeth Warren leads chants at women’s rally in Washington, D.C.

Some have argued that a federal wealth tax is unconstitutional. But here again, some of the country’s most prominent constitutional scholars — including two former heads of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice — have argued convincingly that a wealth tax is constitutional.[xix]

Far-reaching policy proposals nearly always require considerable effort to iron out complexities — and that effort has always been made when the cause is important enough. The process of instituting a wealth tax would in itself likely improve the measurement tools to facilitate implementation.

Those of us who have signed this letter believe it is our duty to step up and support a wealth tax that taxes us. It is a key to both addressing our climate crisis, and a more competitive, stronger economy that would better serve millions of Americans. It would make America healthier. It is a fair way of creating opportunity. And it strengthens American freedom and democracy. It is not in our interest to advocate for this tax, if our interests are quite narrowly understood. But the wealth tax is in our interest as Americans.

That’s why we’re joining the majority of Americans already supporting a moderate wealth tax. We ask that you recognize its strong merit and popular support, and advance the idea to tax us a little more.

Thank you,

Louise J. Bowditch, Robert S. Bowditch, Abigail Disney, Sean Eldridge, Stephen R. English, Agnes Gund, Catherine Gund, Nick Hanauer, Arnold Hiatt, Chris Hughes, Molly Munger, Regan Pritzker, Justin Rosenstein, Stephen M. Silberstein, Ian T. Simmons, Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Alexander Soros, George Soros, and Anonymous

Continue reading

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Demands closure of historic 140-yr.-0ld Benton Harbor High School, students state funds sent to outlying white districts, or will dissolve BHAS

Cites BH district’s alleged $16-18 million debt, overseen by state school bond loan fund; half of state budget also devoted to debt service 

1,800 students Benton Harbor students are 92% Black, 81% poor; student video calls for state to forgive district debt

Dems including MEA, AFT teachers urge legislature to approve Whitmer’s discriminatory budget in historic betrayal

By Diane Bukowski

June 21, 2019

Students rally outside Benton Harbor High School June 11, 2019 Photo: Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR, MI — “We did not realize Gov. Snyder was going to get a third term under the Whitmer administration,” Rev. David Bullock of the Change Agent Consortium said at a press conference in Lansing on June 11, 2019.

“We’ve seen the destruction of public education in Highland Park, Inkster, Detroit, and in Benton Harbor. Something seems to suggest that it’s not just about destroying public education, but also about hindering the forward education and progress of African-American students.”

Despite her campaign promise that she would prioritize funding for education, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer demanded last month that the Benton Harbor School Board either close the city’s venerable 140-year old, ONLY public high school, or face the state’s dissolution of the entire school district, and its conversion into charter schools.

If the high school is closed, Whitmer said BHHS students would be bused to largely white outlying school districts miles away, if those school districts agree to accept them.

Those districts include  St. Joseph, Lakeshore, Berrien Springs, Niles, Au Claire, Colomba, Bridgman, Watervliet, and one charter school as shown in the map below.

Distances BHHS students would be forced to travel to other districts/Map ABC57

Whitmer cited the district’s alleged $18.2 million debt, involving loans from the state school loan fund. She claimed the district was failing and cited figures regarding rates of graduation and student scores on state tests. Benton Harbor officials have challenged her figures, and a recent report on problems with the state’s computer monitoring of such scores supports their position.

Gov. Whitmer meets with skeptical Benton Harbor residents and students June 12. Bridge photo

After the school board voted resoundingly not to close the high school, Whitmer responded June 18, “I think we all know that doing nothing is not an option for the children of Benton Harbor. As we move forward, we must focus our efforts on finding a solution that is attainable and puts students and families first.

“Given substantial efforts by the Board to begin crafting a plan, I look forward to working in partnership towards a solution that includes clear benchmarks, accountability, and more serious measures if these benchmarks are not satisfied.” See

Whitmer is thus demanding the board create a deficit elimination plan that will in essence eliminate education for Benton Harbor’s students, as such plans have done for cities and school districts across Michigan under the administrations of Govs. Snyder, Jennifer Granholm, and John Engler. In fact, it was under Granholm’s administration that Detroit experienced its highest rate of school closings.

But as happened in Detroit’s phony bankruptcy, the state has estimated debt figures for Benton Harbor Area Schools that are based on a total amount over coming decades. Detroit EM Orr said Detroit was $18 billion in debt, when in fact its cash deficit from the previous year, 2013, was only $138,000,000 and was expected to be paid from future incoming revenues.

Sheila A. Alles, Interim State Superintendent, issued a quarterly report on district deficits across the state May 1, 2019, which includes the charts above.  Benton Harbor is shown with a reduction in its last cash fund balance of $4.6 million, not $18.2 million. The same is true of other cities listed. The cardinal sin committed by these cities is that the state paid them per pupil funds out of its General Fund that exceeded their revenues.

The question this chart raises is: why has Whitmer targeted Benton Harbor schools, when Macomb Academy, a charter school for students with disabilities in Clinton Township, has the highest deficit?  Why not any of the other school districts in the pink rows, which have largely white student populations?

Is Michigan bleeding cities, school districts dry to pay off ITS outrageous debt to the banks?

Why ANY AT ALL, when the state allocates per-pupil funding at its highest levels to well-to-do districts that pay the highest property taxes? Is this apartheid education based both on race and economic prosperity?

Bridge Magazine reported, “Nationally, school district debt has grown substantially, from nearly $323 billion in 2006 to $443 billion in 2016, according to U.S. Census data. In Michigan, school districts’ long-term debt is just over $13 billion, according to the state’s Treasury Department.

“And unlike an individual — who can default if their finances change — once a district has taken out a school bond, it must pay it back, even if the community falls on hard times.

“Districts can’t default, and declaring bankruptcy is rarely an option; nationally, only six have done so in the last 60 years. Instead, school officials have to find the dollars somewhere, either by extracting it from local taxpayers or taking away resources from kids.”

Graph showing educational levels of Benton Harbor population.

A recent study identifying a serious computer miscalculation by the Power School system of Michigan’s students grades also challenges Whitmer’s allegations that Benton Harbor schools are failing.

An audit allegedly finding that only one-third of Benton Harbor students were on track to graduate was found to be seriously flawed due to a Power Schools glitch that has caused problems nationwide. But while investigating this glitch, the state claimed that it found Benton Harbor had overcounted its student population and therefore CUT BACK state per-pupil funding to the district.

In fact, census figures on education in Benton Harbor paint a much brighter picture of academic accomplishment in the district. (See graph at right). Video on Power Schools program flaw below.

Senior De;Aundre Henderson told ABC 57 that students do  not want to see their high school close.

Benton Harbor High School Senior De’Aundre Henderson

“I joined the band at the high school and I became the drum major, learned how to play the piano, tuba, all the wind instruments, drums; there’s something about what music does to me that just clicks,” Henderson said.

“Most of the students live in this area; we don’t have another school in this area to go to. Many don’t have transportation, this is like our landmark. There should be some other solution. People want to carry on the legacy.”

In a recent video rap video, Benton Harbor students, who are playing a leading role in the battle to save their schools,  raised a logical solution: forgive the district debt to the banks, which is governed by the state’s school loan board.

MISSION MUSIC – GET UP (featuring De’Asha Spencer-Kyle, 2Tru, Cam G & QueenBarzz)

With a poverty rate of 48 percent, Benton Harbor is one of the poorest cities in the U.S. It is situated across the river from St. Joseph, a mostly white, prosperous enclave.

Whirlpool, previously its major employer, moved all its plants out of the city. Then it took advantage of former Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointment of an emergency manager to seize most of the city’s public land, including its beautiful lakefront properties. Now corporate forces who funded Whitmer’s campaign want its schools.

March against EM takeover of Benton Harbor May 7, 2011: Tax the rich!

Gov. Snyder targeted Benton Harbor first for the EM appointments under Public Act 436. Most of the other cities were also a majority Black. EM’s everywhere gutted public assets, institutions, services, jobs, and pensions, allegedly to pay back debts to the banks, but in fact to provide megaprofits for Wall Street. 

Using a technicality, that Act violated a state-wide public referendum in which 82 out of 84 counties in the State voted “NO” to EM laws. (The two which voted YES where Oakland and Macomb Counties.)

Band from Benton Harbor High School marched proudly  in city’s annual Flower Day Parade May 7, 2011.

Benton Harbor leaders, students and residents say they have finally had enough. They are warning the rest of the state that, just as they were the first city targeted by Snyder, an attack on other public school districts and cities will follow.


Teachers’ unions including MEA and the AFT march in Lansing June 18 to support Whitmer’s budget, which proposes to eliminate Benton Harbor’s public schools.

However, the state’s union leadership and other forces associated with the Democratic Party are hailing Whitmer, a strategy that failed with two referendums in 2016. Proposal 1 demanded the dissolution of Public Act 4 and was supported financially by only one union, which represented public workers, AFSCME Council 25. The movement against PA 4 was fueled by Gov. Snyder’s attack on the state’s majority-Black cities.

Proposal 1 passed resoundingly, underlining the need for the labor movement to line up with the oppressed Black population of this state and country.

Proposal 2, which would have written the right to organize unions into the State constitution, was broadly funded by virtually every other union in the state, who withheld funding from Proposal 1. It failed resoundingly, turning Michigan, into a “Right-to-Work” state.

On June 18, the Detroit News reported,  “Thousands of Michigan educators rallied Tuesday outside the state Capitol, wearing “red for ed” as they called on the Republican-led Legislature to ‘fund our schools’ and adopt Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget plan.

“[Whitmer] was hailed by union leaders as a key ally in the battle against charter schools and privatization pushed by national GOP leaders like Betsy DeVos.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and civil rights supporters including UAW Pres. Walter Reuther (l) march in Detroit in 1963.

“It’s a new day in Lansing, and we have a fighter on our side who understands that we have to stop short-changing students and we have to invest in our future,” said David Hecker, president of the Michigan chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.”

When will they ever learn? The leadership of the UAW, Teamsters and other unions marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960’s in support of the Black-led civil rights movement.

‘As Angela Davis said, “If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you at night!” It is clearly time that the people of Michigan and of the U.S. begin to organize their own broad, militant grass roots movements against attacks like those from Whitmer, and from President Donald Trump, as opposed to depending on the Democratic Party.

Various related stories from VOD (many more on school closings, Benton Harbor and Public Act 4–put these terms in search engine)



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(L to r) Marcie Griffin, attorney Todd Flood, attorney Suzanne Kostovski, George Rider, and Eric Griffin during trial. Photo: Macomb Daily

Flawed MSP forensic evidence casts doubt on identity of true killer; lab focus of controversy for decades

In separate federal case, Johnson’s boyfriend Lattner pled guilty to possession of Ruger also examined in murder case, lab originally ID’d Gibson’s DNA on it

Jury mostly white; current census figures show large increases in Black population in Eastpointe (nearly 50%), Warren, other Macomb Cty. cities

 Role of federal government agents in pointing prosecution towards Rider, et. al. questioned

By Diane Bukowski

June 12, 2019  Updated June 14, 2019

Add for benefit held for Julii Johnson family after her murder. She had 2 children.


VOD spoke with defendant George Rider today, who called from the Macomb County Jail after his June 7 conviction of first-degree murder in the slaying of Julii Johnson.

Mr. Rider disputed information that has been published in the mainstream media as well as the Voice of Detroit regarding several matters. 

“Neither I nor Eric Gibson ever knew [co-defendant] Marcie Griffin,” Rider said emphatically, referring to published reports that he and Griffin were lovers. Those reports claimed  that Griffin hired Gibson through Rider to kill Johnson, the girlfriend of J. Terrell Lattner. Lattner is the father of two of Griffin’s children.

The mainstream media has sensationalized the case, portraying it as a lover’s triangle with Rider doing the bidding of a scorned Griffin. She is portrayed unflatteringly in published photos.  VOD was able to cover the trial in person one day, and noted that Griffin is actually an attractive, well-groomed and composed woman.

One website called Lipstick Alley headlined a YouTube video from Channel 7 News:

Boyfriend’s Baby Momma executed a hit on his NEW GIRLFRIEND

This WXYZ news coverage is typical of many mainstream media stories, using unsubstantiated police comments, such as the one regarding an unidentified person leaving a vehicle (Warren police SAID he was George Rider), rumors and innuendo, to convict the defendants TWO YEARS before they were actually tried. Also typical are statements from relatives of victims who say they are “so happy” the murderers have been caught, without any proof yet presented.

“Judge [Joseph] Toia should never have allowed text messages from an unknown person sent to Griffin into testimony,” Rider said. “When they seized Marcie Griffin’s phone, the phone number I had was in her phone, but I did not have possession of that phone at the time of those messages. Police seized that phone from me later when they arrested me Feb. 4 in Roseville.”

Mainstream media reports also claimed that Rider was an owner of the cell phone company involved, without naming it.  However, Rider said that one Charles Luckett is the resident agent of Midtown Entertainment, LLC, the company in question, which is confirmed by State of Michigan records. He said the mother of one of his children IS associated with the company, and that Eric Gibson at times ran errands for her.

VOD has contacted Suzanna Kostovski, Rider’s lawyer, for further comment. Rider said an appeal of the convictions is definitely in the works.


(Includes excerpts and information from stories by Jameson Cook of the Macomb Daily, Scott Burnstein of the Gangster Report, and VOD reporter Ricardo Ferrell. VOD was not able to be present for most of this trial.)

Mostly white jury; generic, not jury in this case.

DETROIT – A majority-white Macomb County jury on June 7 convicted George Rider, 61, of Huntington Woods, Marcie Griffin, 48, of Eastpointe, and Eric Gibson, 26, of Detroit, of first-degree murder in the Jan. 13, 2017 slaying of Julii Larrie Johnson, 34.

The defendants, all of whom are Black as was the victim, will be sentenced to mandatory life-without-parole terms in front of Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Toia, also white, on July 31. Gibson was also convicted of possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony.

“Sadly, the system is rigged in a way that common everyday citizens can be swept up, arrested, and thrown in jail for two years and four months with numerous delays and postponements before having their day in court, only to be railroaded through a process replete with constitutional violations and obvious injustices,” noted Ricardo Ferrell, a VOD reporter who has been following the story.

VOD staff writer Ricardo Ferrell

*Currently there is a probe by authorities looking into illegal activities by Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith,” Ferrell added. “The level of corruption that exists in this racist county leads me to conclude that justice will never prevail for these three defendants unless a fair and impartial judge is assigned to preside over a new trial, in a different county.”

Reporter Scott Burnstein of the Gangster Report wrote, “The only evidence connecting the 60-year old Rider and the 26-year old Gibson [the alleged shooter] are ‘pings’ from cell phone towers in the Metro Detroit area placing them in the same vicinity on the day Johnson was murdered. Nonetheless, Rider, Griffin and Gibson were indicted together on February 24, 2017 and have been held without bail ever since.”

Warren and Roseville police first arrested Rider Feb. 4, 2017 in Roseville, and subjected him to a warrant-less search and seizure of his vehicle and two cell phones. 

Rider is well-known in Detroit as a long-time property owner and entrepreneur in the former Paradise Valley/Cass Corridor/Brush Park district. That area is now called “Midtown” and largely owned by whites, including billionaire Dan Gilbert and the Illitch family. It features the Red Wings, Comerica Park, and Ford Field sports arenas, along with “gentrified” shops, restaurants, and retail stores.

Rider has also been in the sights of the federal government for years, having served two stints for narcotics trafficking. He was last released in 2003. Mainstream media reports continually say he is “suspected” in other murders. But they give no specifics, other than the unsolved murders of three former owners of the Fine Arts Theater on Woodward, which community activists have long attributed to white corporate gentrifiers.

Boyfriend Lattner pleads guilty in federal court to possession of one of two guns examined in murder; MSP crime lab mixed up DNA tests on both

J. Terrell Lattner with atty. John Royal appears before USDC Judge Mark Goldsmith June 3, 2019

Johnson was found shot seven times in the head and torso to death outside a Warren condo owned by her boyfriend Jim T. Lattner Jr., 44, early on the morning of Jan. 13, 2017.

Allegedly, the bullets found in her body at the morgue were “unidentifiable.” 

Lattner, who was home at the time, was the first suspect police identified in Johnson’s murder. They seized large amounts of drugs and guns from Lattner’s condo and his vehicle, which was outfitted with hidden compartments commonly used by drug dealers.      

Burnstein wrote, “Lattner, 44, has two drug dealing convictions on his rap sheet from when he was the leader of the World Domination Gang in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He did six years in prison and got out in 2010.” 

According to sources, agents from the federal government ATF, FBI and Violent Crime Task Forces intervened to point the prosecution in the direction of Rider. They allegedly met June 23 at Warren Police headquarters with Warren police and other entities.

The Johnson murder trial jury never heard that Lattner had pled guilty on June 3 in a separate federal court case to felon-in-possession of the .44 caliber Ruger found by Warren police in his truck parked outside the condo the morning of Johnson’s death. He earlier took the Fifth Amendment at the murder trial, refusing to answer any questions at all, or acknowledge his relationship with Johnson. He is facing up to 10 years in prison on the federal weapons charge.

Smith and Wesson handgun shown at trial as murder weapon. Original photo by Warren Police.

Two days after Johnson’s death. a separate team of Warren police found a Smith & Wesson handgun in fields near the condo, on a path ending at a nearby L.A. Fitness Center on Mound Rd. They turned it over to the state police for testing to see if it was the murder weapon.

The team of police first on scene the day of the murder conducted a canine search of the area for an entire day, according to a Fox 2 news report Jan. 13, 2017. Fox 2 reported that they were unsuccessful in producing any gun, or any other physical evidence.

A police team later found “work” gloves on the same path that allegedly had Gibson’s DNA on them. Police also reported they examined a video of a white Nissan Pathfinder parking in the LA Fitness lot and reported that an individual inside emerged on the day of Johnson’s murder. They did not conclusively identify that individual, though they claimed it was George Rider. 

“A possible mix-up of DNA samples by Michigan State Police forensic scientists took center stage Wednesday at the trial of three defendants accused of murdering an Oak Park woman in Warren.” Jameson Cook of the Macomb Daily reported May 30.

He went on, “Initial analysis of DNA collected from the Smith & Wesson handgun show[ed] Lattner’s DNA on the trigger/slide and no DNA from Gibson, while the same gun’s grip showed Gibson’s DNA and none from Lattner.”

Ruger pistol found in Lattner’s truck the day of Johnson’s murder. He pled guilty June 3 to felon in possession of this firearm in separate federal case.

He added later, “The initial analysis of the Ruger showed Gibson’s DNA on “grip” or handle, and none of Lattner’s DNA . . . .The possible switch of DNA samples taken from the two guns prompted MSP Crime Lab officials to recollect and re-examine samples. The DNA analysis of the second set of samples provided different results that are more in line with law enforcement’s theory of the case.”

According to Cook, defense attorneys were in an uproar after three employees of the crime lab at various locations testified about the alleged mix-up.

“The potential mistake at either the MSP Sterling Heights or Northville lab has prompted incredulity from defense attorneys who contend that perhaps a mistake was not made because the initial test results point to Lattner as having a role in the incident, shifting blame from their clients,” Cook wrote. “They say it also throws into question all of the DNA testing in the case.

Cook continued, “MSP Forensic Scientist [Jennifer Jones] said that didn’t make sense because the results were “inconsistent with the case facts as described by the agent (Warren police),” Jones wrote in her report. The results didn’t jive because because Warren police were “trying to place the suspect on this weapon (the Ruger),” a superior to Jones wrote in an email received by Jones.

Jennifer Jones, MSP forensic biologist

Jones also noted that the gun was owned by Lattner and was in his vehicle, so more likely to have his DNA on it.

The Michigan State Police Crime Lab has been the focus of controversy over falsified tests for decades, resulting in part from its employment of State Troopers instead of qualified forensic scientists. A coalition of defense attorneys filed suit against the Lab in 2015. See

Michael Harris, co-founder of People’s Crime Lab Task Force

In 2011, a coalition of prisoners and their families formed The People’s Crime Lab Task Force to fight results from both the Detroit Police Crime Lab, closed in 2009, and the MSP lab. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy hijacked what was supposed to have been an independent investigation of 147 cases from the Detroit lab. Only four defendants’ cases were examined, and all were re-tried and found guilty again.

One of the founding members of the Crime Lab Task Force, Michael Harris, remains in prison convicted of the rape-murders of three women in the Lansing area during the 1980’s. The MSP lab originally handled the forensics including fingerprinting.

Harris’ lawyer suggested the lab had planted the print. Updated DNA testing of a sample from one of the murders, done by the MSP lab, subsequently identified another man as the perpetrator. Since then, Harris has not been exonerated of that murder, and the other man has not been charged. See:

Racial composition of jury challenged by defense: only 3 Blacks in county where cities like Eastpointe are approaching majority Black populations

Judge Toia maintained an outwardly patient and respectful demeanor as defense attorneys brought forward various motions, during the trial, but denied all of them.

MCCC Judge Joseph Toia

In particular, attorneys for Rider and Gibson disputed the racial make-up of the jury in a special session. They pointed out that the percentage of jury questionnaires returned from predominantly white areas of Macomb County was 70 percent, while cities with larger populations of color returned only 50 percent of their questionnaires.

Prosecutors at this murder trial claimed Toia had no authority to deal with the jury selection problem. However, two judges in the Third Judicial Circuit Court of Wayne County did deal with it.

The Michigan legislature had abolished Detroit’s Recorder’s Court, with jurors and judges drawn only from Detroit, in reaction to the conviction of white police officers Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn for murdering a Black Detroiter, Malice Green. 

They replaced it with the Third Judicial Circuit Court, covering all of Wayne County, which was not a majority Black, although most defendants in that court to this day are Black.

Sapala ordered additional questionnaires sent to zip codes in Wayne County with predominantly Black populations to balance the matter. However, the problem re-emerged later when most Black potential jurors were assigned to 36th District Court, shorting the venire of Black jurors for the Third Judicial Court. Judge Deborah Thomas waged a determined years-long campaign in an attempt to correct that situation

Graph showing 2019 population of Eastpointe/

The omission of Black jurors was especially glaring for Marcie Griffin, a resident of Eastpointe, where residents of color now exceed the number of white residents. 

“The jury, comprised of nine whites and three blacks had the appearance of a deck already stacked against the defendants,” Ferrell noted.

“During the voir dire the prosecution utilized his preemptory challenges to exclude potential Black jurors. Assistant Prosecutor Jurij Fedorak during an impromptu hearing in the middle of trial claimed that the jury pool in Macomb County doesn’t have enough Blacks in it . . . but that is a blatant untruth because in the City of Eastpointe alone there [are nearly 50 percent] of  African-Americans residing there, so why not choose from that demographic?”

Toia excused two jurors, whose race was not noted in the Macomb Daily coverage, one for “scheduling reasons” and the other for allegedly having “non-verbal contact” with witnesses, leaving only 12 on the jury panel.

Defendants alleged violations of U.S. Constitution governing right to speedy trial, fair jury, due process

Early on, both Rider and Gibson unsuccessfully filed motions for dismissal of the charges based on state and federal constitutional violations, particularly of the U.S. Fourth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments, relating to illegal search and seizure, and denial of a speedy trial, a fair jury, and due process.

MCCC Judge Jennifer Faunce (l) was finally removed from Rider’s case due to conflicts of interest including the involvement of her sister 37th DC Judge Suzanne Faunce (r) in Rider’s bindover.

Rider’s first Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Faunce repeatedly postponed hearings on his motions for dismissal, until she was finally recused by the Chief Judge due to her ties with Rider’s District Court Judge Suzanne Faunce, her sister, who belatedly signed warrants after Warren police seized Rider’s vehicle and cell phones.

This writer, VOD’s editor, has noted a similar pattern in other cases in Macomb County’s courts. In one case, a Black teen defendant was arraigned on June 6, 2017. The arraignment was sensationalized by mainstream media the next day, clearly showing the defendant’s image. No subsequent public hearings were held in court until his date of sentencing two years later.  He pled guilty on the advice of counsel despite the existence of alibi witnesses who never testified, and the fact that other witnesses who claimed to have identified him said his head was covered with a hood.

Related stories:



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Plaintiff Mimi Wahab Brun with her mother Virginia “Jean” Wahab. Mrs. Wahab passed away in April, 2019 after a two-year ordeal in the Lourdes Nursing Home, which held her against her will. Visits with her daughter were barred.

“Mom was a fearless, independent woman before Lourdes took control of her.” — Daughter Mimi Brun

After time in Lourdes, “She couldn’t stand up. She was terrified of being locked in a room and of someone coming to take her back to Lourdes.”

“We want to be paid. You cannot expect to show up to see your mother when you have not paid for the privilege.” –Lourdes attorney on illegal denial of visitation rights to Brun

Experts say seizure of seniors, their homes and assets, by Probate Court judges, guardians, trustees, nursing homes, is rampant national trend.

By Gretchen Rachel Hammond

May 30, 2019

Mimi Brun (l) during her youth with mother Virginia Jean Wahab (r).

In nationwide research studies, the greatest fear expressed by seniors is not death but the  eradication of their independence if forced to live in a nursing facility.

According to a lawsuit filed May 8, 2019 in Oakland County Circuit Court, such fears were realized for a vital and healthy Oak Park woman, Virginia “Jean” Wahab, who spent two years falsely imprisoned in a Waterford nursing home, Lourdes, Inc, held for a $25,000 ransom.

 “Mom was a fearless, independent woman before Lourdes took control of her,” Mimi Brun, her oldest daughter and caregiver, said. “When I finally got her out of there. it took me a long time to wean her off all the unnecessary anti-psychotic and anti-depressive drugs they had been giving her.”

Wahab had been living alone before her ordeal began in 2016. But Brun says by the time she was able to secure her mother’s release after a protracted legal battle, “She couldn’t stand up. She was terrified of being locked in a room and of someone coming to take her back to Lourdes. She would wake up from dreams with just paralyzing fear. She told me that she had been hit a lot. She had bed sores, broken teeth from all the falls, scars and blisters.”

Injury to Mrs. Wahab’s elbow allegedly sustained at Lourdes

Before Wahab passed away at the end of April, mother and daughter were finally able to spend a precious few months together after being kept apart by a court order obtained by Lourdes severing Brun’s visitation rights.

See Plaintiff Brun’s lawsuit at

In 1968, a Waco, Texas army veteran filed and won a lawsuit after a local nursing facility held him against his will. Since then, such actions have sporadically been brought nationwide.

Brun’s lawsuit claims false imprisonment, negligence, breach of contract, malicious prosecution, abuse of court process and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. It is a first for Michigan.

It comes on the heels of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s creation of an Elder Abuse Taskforce and the arrest of two Mount Clemens nursing home employees who were each charged with Vulnerable Adult Abuse. 

According to Brun’s complaint, the family’s problems began in February 2016, when Wahab was admitted to Lourdes, a $21 million nonprofit housing 250 residents at four facilities, for short-term rehabilitation following a recommendation from her doctor.

By April 2016, Wahab’s insurance company, Health Alliance Plan, terminated Wahab’s Medicare benefits at Lourdes stating that she needed no further services or medication and was “medically stable for discharge.”

Lourdes Dementia Care Unit. Courtesy

However, the complaint asserts that “Even through Virginia did not need to be in a nursing home, Lourdes kept her in a section reserved for terminally ill and dementia patients for over-two years [and] would not release Virginia without the payment of a bill in the amount of $25,000.”

Court documents show that Lourdes filed a petition for guardianship of Wahab at the Oakland County Probate Court.

During a June 29, 2016 hearing on the petition, Lourdes social worker Sara Van Acker stated that the organization was seeking guardianship of Wahab because of “A concern about the nursing home being paid.” To view full deposition, see

Van Acker added that Wahab was suffering from a number of mental and physical ailments, including dementia. The lawsuit argues that, at the time, “Lourdes knew she was suffering from none of those conditions.”

Oakland Co. Probate Court Presiding Judge Linda Hallmark

But without any medical evidence presented at the hearing, presiding Oakland County Probate Court Judge Linda S. Hallmark granted the request. She appointed former Oakland County Public Administrator Jon B. Munger as Wahab’s guardian, discarding a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) in which Wahab had named  Brun as her patient advocate.

Guardianship is a system which has come under nationwide scrutiny given that an individual, deemed legally incompetent by a probate or family court judge, must cede their personal rights, freedoms, financial and medical decisions, often to a total stranger.

Cases in which court-appointed, professional guardians have used their power to exploit and abuse their elderly or vulnerable wards have been uncovered in  Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania. Ohio , Texas and California to name a few.

On May 30, WXYZ aired a two-part story concerning a husband and wife imprisoned in their own home by a Macomb County Probate Judge and guardianship company.

A 2015 Hunter College/New York Times study  determined that the use of guardianship as a collection agency by nursing facilities has “become routine.”

Appointed Wahab Guardian Jon Munger

A statute in Michigan’s Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC) gives Brun priority over a professional guardian in the care of her mother. But, during the hearing, Hallmark stated that she was appointing Munger “to make sure we have the Medicaid application on track [and] get this bill taken care of.”

According to Brun’s lawsuit, Wahab was “kept in Lourdes against her will in exchange for the Medicaid payments and as collateral for payments it claimed were owed to it by Ms. Brun.” It adds that Lourdes violated federal law in attempting to force Brun to guarantee her mother’s bill.

An FOIA request to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) revealed that, between 2016 and 2018, Lourdes received a total of $24,557,557.10 in Medicaid disbursements. See

During the two-year fight Brun launched to have Wahab released from both the guardianship and Lourdes, the complaint alleges that Lourdes denied her visitation rights to her mother and barred her from the premises, chemically restrained Wahab while denying her personal liberty and freedom of movement, and obtained an illegal injunction from Hallmark and bench warrant for Brun’s arrest unless she paid them $25,000.

The complaint notes a February 2, 2017 email from Lourdes attorney Mary Lyneis in which she told Brun, “We want to be paid. You cannot expect to show up to see your mother when you have not paid for the privilege.”

A disturbing June 27, 2018 video (above) shows a brief union between mother and daughter outside the Oakland County Probate Court before Munger’s attorney Joseph Ehrlich pulls Wahab’s wheelchair away with such force that Wahab is jolted back in her seat.

Brun said her reaction was visceral and born out of exhaustion, frustration and helplessness.

Joseph Ehrlich, Esq.

“I hadn’t seen my mother for two years,” she recalled. “They had no right to separate us. What Ehrlich did was aggressive and illegal. If it was your mom, what would you do?”

Ultimately, Brun decided that the answer was in taking legal action against Lourdes, something she stated is not only an attempt to seek justice in memory of her mother but for other Michigan nursing home residents who have been held against their will, isolated from their families, and/or have been subject to an unnecessary guardianship.

 “The irreparable suffering in my mom’s case, the inhumanity she was subjected to, the illegalities and the breaches of her legal and human rights cannot happen again to anyone else anywhere,” she said.

Brun asserted that her mother was more than aware she was being held against her will at Lourdes.

“She said, many times, that they should not have been allowed to do what they were doing, that she should be free and that she didn’t like it one bit that she was locked up,” Brun recalled. “She had always been family-oriented. She was very lonely there and, when she complained to Lourdes staff about how isolated she was, they just told her she was demented.”

Plaintiff’s attorney Mark Hafeli

Sylvan Lake trial attorney Mark W. Hafeli, who has practiced law for more than four decades, is representing Brun in the action. It  seeks a jury trial and redress from Lourdes for extreme emotional distress, pain and suffering, medical expenses and punitive damages.

“It’s a fear of many elderly people that they may be confined in a nursing home against their will,” Hafeli stated. “To be locked in a nursing home when you don’t want to be there is a serious wrong.”

The federal Nursing Home Reform Act passed in 1987, requires facilities to adhere to the rights and protection of residents including freedom from chemical restraints,  respect of advance directives, access to a resident by immediate family or relatives and the freedom to be discharged.

“All federal regulations and resident rights say that a resident of a nursing home has a right to visits,” Hafeli noted. “You can’t condition a mother’s right to see her daughter based upon the daughter’s payment of $25,000.”

The act notes that, in cases where a resident has been deemed incompetent by a state judge, their rights are transferred to a guardian. But Hafeli does not believe that it lets Lourdes off the hook for filing an unwarranted petition in the first place and their holding, isolation and treatment of Wahab.

“According to an expert I have consulted, regardless of what the guardian may or may not do, the nursing home has a duty to discharge a person when they don’t need skilled nursing care,” he said. “Especially when there’s a family member willing to take care of them.”

Diane Medio, Exec. Director CARIE

Diane Menio is the Executive Director of the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly (CARIE) which, for 42 years, has promoted “The wellbeing, rights and autonomy of older adults.”

 “There are national trends such as nursing homes going for a guardianship when they can’t get payment or an approved application for Medicaid,” she said. “But you can’t keep someone hostage until money is paid. A family member being told ‘you can’t visit because you owe us money’ is something new to me.”

Menio noted that her organization has seen nursing facilities applying for guardianship of their residents “in batches.”

Such activity raises the question whether the significant reason for the increase in guardianship and nursing home abuse is due to an exponentially increasing senior demographic.

“Society doesn’t see elderly people,” Menio said. “The abuse of them is underreported. People take advantage of them. Making sure we have protections in place for the elderly population is extremely challenging.”

Brun said that her lawsuit is part of a greater elder abuse awareness campaign she calls #justiceforjean.

“People need to wake up about the potential for destructive forces in the lives of people they love,” she said. “Justice yields peace and I’m looking for it for Mom, for me and for all the people to come.”

“Any time you bring a case like this you hope that it benefits other people,” Hafeli asserted. “If this case causes some good for the public, I’d be thrilled.”


Journalist Gretchen Rachel Hammond

Gretchen Rachel Hammond is an award-winning, now free-lance journalist presently wrapping up a nine-month investigation into an alleged elder abuse and exploitation ring operating out of the Oakland County Probate Courts. She previously worked on staff for numerous publications. VOD is grateful for this excellent expose of crimes rampant in probate courts across the U.S. and even the world.

VOD previously published a series of stories on the similar, harrowing experience of Westland senior Gayle Robinson and other seniors and children. (Put names of those involved in search engine to bring up numerous stories.)

Other VOD stories on state terrorism against elders,  families and children included world-renowned hero the late Maryanne Godboldo, who fought off a SWAT-team attack on her Detroit home in 2011 aimed at having CPS kidnap and forcibly medicate her 13-year-old daughter.

Maryanne Godboldo speaks at rally shortly after her release from jail, preparing to fight to release her daughter from state control

Godboldo died of a massive brain aneurysm the night before Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy scheduled a THIRD criminal trial against Godboldo after Judges Ronald Giles and Gregory Bill twice threw out the same charges. Ms. Godboldo and her family carried out a years-long battles in juvenile and criminal courts, winning the release of Godboldo’s daughter to her family. They continue Maryanne’s battle on behalf of other state victims to this day.  See  

Others VOD has covered who have battled state attacks on seniors, their families, and children include, among others:

  • Lennette Williams and her daughter Mailauni Williams, who have conducted a battle to remain united for over 30 years;
  • Luis and Cecilia Espinoza, who won their juvenile court battle to keep their 5 children;
  • Parents Tamikia McGruder and Arthur Simmons, who finally defeated CPS’ battle to take their 6 children;
  • Wanda Worley and her daughter Sharmian Sowards,
  • Kristina Brockington and her mother Regina Gargus



Rights of an individual with a guardian:

Powers and duties of a guardian:

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

Guardianship petitions: Summary under Michigan Law



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