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Protest against the closings of DPS Oakman Elementary School, built for special needs students, on Aug. 27, 2013. The school was later closed, with students scattered to non-special needs equipped buildings.

Protest against the closing of historic DPS Oakman Orthopedic Elementary School, built for special needs students, on Aug. 27, 2013. The school was later closed, with students scattered to non-special needs equipped buildings.

By Aurora Harris

August 25, 2016

Posted By Aurora Harris to Detroit Parents With Special Ed Students at 8/25/2016 01:44:00 PM

VOD editor’s note: The Detroit News reported Sept. 1 that the State School Reform Office released a report listing the five percent of lowest-achieving schools in Michigan. More than one-third of those schools are in the  new “DPS Community Schools District (DPSCSD).” Eight have already been closed. The News also reports that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and  DPS Emergency Manager Stephen Rhodes claim that no DPSCSD “lowest-performing” schools can be closed until 2019, because it is a new district. It was formed by state public acts which ended the Detroit Public Schools District, strenuously opposed by Detroit legislators and the elected Detroit Board of Education. Those acts require schools to be graded “lowest-achieving” for three years before closure, as determined by the School Reform Office. However, charter school officials are clamoring for the schools involved to be closed immediately. See list of  alleged “lowest-achieving schools” at

Aurora Harris (l) with other members of We the People of Detroit, (l to r) Cecily McClellan, Chris Griffith, Monica Lewis-Patrick, and Debra Taylor.

Aurora Harris (l) with other members of We the People of Detroit, (l to r) Cecily McClellan, Chris Griffith, Monica Lewis-Patrick, and Debra Taylor Aug. 14, 2016.

DETROIT — Last week, I received an eight page report on proposed school closings in the Detroit Public Schools District beginning in September 2016 (in two weeks). As some of you may have learned from my last blog entry, I am continuing my research on the number of Special Education students in the [DPS Community Schools District] that may be affected by school closures, the type of education and resources they will receive, and funding sources for Special Education in

As a concerned parent of a loved one with Autism, a Special Education Advocate for parents in Detroit, Michigan, and a co-founder of We The People of Detroit, I have been concerned with the quality of education special needs students have been receiving.

Parents, students and supporters rally in front of Detroit Public School HQ in protest of closing Oakman Elementary/Orthopedic School in Detroit — which serves disabled students. All they need is $46,000 to keep the school open. DPS is selling the school building for a mere $46,000. Parents want to buy it and are raising money to do so.Photograph: James Fassinger/STILLSCENES

Parents, students and supporters rally in front of Detroit Public School HQ in protest of closing Oakman Elementary/Orthopedic School in Detroit — which serves disabled students. All they need is $46,000 to keep the school open. DPS is selling the school building for a mere $46,000. Parents want to buy it and are raising money to do so.Photograph: James Fassinger/STILLSCENES

Since Detroit Public Schools were placed under Emergency Managers, beginning with Robert Bobb, I have continued independently researching and writing about special education (or the lack of) in the DPS, EAA (Education Achievement Authority, a State system for low performing schools) and Charter Schools.

There are several questions I am attempting to answer:

  • What will happen to Detroit’s students with special needs in general ed, EAA, and charter schools that are closing [under new DPS Community District controlled by state Financial Review Board].
  • What schools will they be transferred to when their school closes?
  • Will they receive the FAPE (Appropriate Public Education) they need as mandated by IEP’s, IDEA, and Section 504 or will they continue to suffer from cutbacks in resources, accommodations, and lack of qualified teachers?
  • How many parents will experience discrimination when attempting to enroll a child with special needs in charters?
  • Which schools are students with special needs experiencing overcrowding in? What exactly is funding to educate students with special needs in general ed, charter, and centerbased schools being spent on?
  • When a child transfers or drops out, does the Emergency Manager and administration ensure the funds follow the student, and in the case of drop out, do they misappropriate the funding (spend it on other things) instead of returning it to the Feds or State?
  • Where does the special education funding go when a school is permanently closed down?
  • Finally, how many special needs students are and will be affected by school closures, water shut offs and foreclosures in the city of Detroit?
Keidan Special Education Center, closed 2013.

Keidan Special Education Center

Some of my questions come from the inability to find detailed spending reports concerning special education in Detroit while under Emergency Managers from Robert Bobb to Judge Rhodes, and majority legislators in Lansing refusing requests by Detroit legislators to have a forensic audit done for DPS while it was under emergency managers.

As an advocate, parents asked me if they can enroll their child with special needs in a charter school or they have told me that charter schools in Detroit have told them they “are full” when the parent attempts to enroll their child. In response to those parents, I have told them that in the State of Michigan, according to federal law, all schools, including charters, must provide Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and charters cannot deny enrollment because the student has a disability.

When parents told me that a charter school told them they are “full,” meaning they are at full enrollment capacity and cannot accept the student with a disability, it reminds me of the discrimination by charter schools that took place in New Orleans, where complaints were filed and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents when they found the charters were discriminating against the students. See an article by the Southern Poverty Law Center here:

Classroom at Drew Transition Center, now closed.

Classroom at Drew Transition Center

In connecting the dots between New Orleans and Detroit, news sources in the past compared the closing of schools in Detroit to New Orleans, where New Orleans’ schools were destroyed and closed down by Hurricane Katrina (a natural disaster). The truth is the City of Detroit and Detroit Public Schools has not experienced a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina.

Detroit Public Schools were and still are being destroyed and closed down by Emergency Managers continually creating economic disaster by increasing the school district’s debt, and upholding polices and mandates that allowed for more charters schools to open. An article by the Metro Times covered the increase in debt after six years of Emergency Managers:

Today I discovered two reports by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. The first report supports what I have told parents.

The first report dated March 30, 2012 is “Special Education Enrollment: Traditional Public Schools vs Charter Schools” ( ). It discusses the mistaken belief that charter schools can have a selective enrollment process and explains why they “cannot categorically deny enrollment.”

The full reports may be downloaded in PDF from the Citizens of Michigan Research Council website at the links indicated above. Regarding special education students, school closure, water shut off and foreclosure, the questions previously stated remain, and, based on the reports I read today, if Detroit Public Schools’ total enrollment of special education students is increasing, and half of those students are in six center-based schools (see DPS website map at ):

DPS Center-Based Special Education Schools

  1. Banks, Diann Williamson Center 9-12, SpecEd  5020 Cadieux Detroit, MI 48224  (313) 347-7280

2. Drew Transition Center  SpecEd  9600 Wyoming Street Detroit, MI 48204-4669 (313)   873-6880

3. Field, Moses K – 8, SpecEd, PK  1100 Sheridan Detroit, MI 48214-4220  (313) 866-5790

4. Keidan Special Education Center K – 8, SpecEd  4441 Collingwood Detroit, MI 48204 (313) 873-9400

5. Turning Point Academy K – 12, SpecEd  12300 Linnhurst St. Detroit, MI 48205-2627  (313) 866-2200

6. White, Jerry L. Center  9 – 12, SpecEd  14804 W. McNichols Detroit, MI 48235  (313) 416-4200

Another part of the report states: “Special education students account for 12.7 percent of Michigan’s (excluding DPS) total public school enrollment in 2015-16, compared to 18.2 percent for DPS. Relative to total enrollment, DPS’s special education population is almost one-third larger than the statewide average.13 While DPS’s special education share has been trending up over the 10-plus years, the opposite has been occurring statewide.”

Detroit special needs students in class.

Detroit special needs students in class.

“Another difference in DPS’s special education population is that roughly one-half of the disabled students (2,269 FTE of 4,499 FTE) attend one of the six center-based programs operated by the district. For all other districts and charter schools in Wayne RESA, 44 percent of the disabled student body attend center-based programs located across the ISD.

This report shows an increase in the number of students enrolled in the schools, from 13% to 18%, from the early 2000’s to present. It also states that students with special needs are moving slower out of the district when compared with general education students. “Table 4” shows there were almost 4500 students receiving special education from 2011-13. The report also shows differences between Detroit’s Special Education enrollment and other districts.

The second report, “Public School Enrollment Trends in Detroit Memo 1141, June 2016” provides details on the trends in enrollment from 2009 through 2016, and, enrollment of Special Education students (

The final question is based on a recent water shut off mapping study called “Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African American Neighborhoods in Detroit” by the We The People of Detroit Community Research Collective. We The People of Detroit is a local non-profit, that I am a co-founder of.

Are special education students residing and/or attending schools in areas heaviest hit with water shut offs or foreclosures? I believe we can find an approximate number of special needs students affected by looking at the location of school closures and the maps provided by the We The People of Detroit Community Research Collective. A sample of the maps are found here:

Media reports include Fox 2 News’ interview above, and stories linked below.



Bing’s Detroit–the next New Orleans?

#SpecialNeedsStudentsMatter, #SaveOurKids, #SaveOurChildren, #SaveDPS, #StopSchoolClosings, #MoneyforEducationnotforBanks, #MoneyforEducationnotforwar, #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackLivesMatterDetroit, #BlackEducationMatters, #Beatbackthebullies, #StandUpNow, #StoptheWaronBlackAmerica, #DefendPublicEducation

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Above: Performance by the “Flowtown Revue” at “Mapping the Water Crisis” book launch forum Aug. 14

Detroit residential water shut-offs skyrocket, 13,750 households from May to July–Detroit News

“The destruction of our neighborhoods is not haphazard or arbitrary but deliberate and intentional”—Dr. Gloria House, Hon. JoAnn Watson 

Coming: Health study on effects of water shut-offs, teaching residents how to test their own water for contaminants like those which poisoned Flint

Story by Diane Bukowski 

Videos by Leona McElvene 

August 24, 2016

JoAnn Watson

JoAnn Watson

Dr. Gloria House

Dr. Gloria House

Detroit community activists recognize that the water crisis and the other destabilizing policies, driven by corporate and government austerity imperatives, are leading to the erasure of our communities, to a reconfiguring of city land and resources to accommodate corporate objectives.  To put it simply, we understand that the forces at work are genocidal. . . .The mapping of water shutoffs and other hardships leading to residential displacement indicates that the destruction of our historic neighborhoods is not haphazard or arbitrary, but deliberate and intentional.” From foreword by Dr. Gloria House and the Honorable JoAnn Watson, for “Mapping the Water Crisis—the Dismantling of African-American Neighborhoods in Detroit.

Gary Brown Charles Pugh

Gary Brown (l), Charles Pugh at City Council, sat on secret Committee that decimated DWSD, voted April 4 for  Consent Agreement that sparked Detroit takeover. 

“A lot of people believe that they don’t have to pay for water because it should be free, which is nothing further from the truth. Those that can pay must pay. We’re re-prioritizing our shut-offs—we’re going after our commercial accounts first, we’re going after our illegal hook-ups, and then we’re going to go after those that are past due more than 60 days, our residential accounts that are in payment plans but don’t meet that obligation. We’re watching the metrics very closely.” Gary Brown, Director DWSD, who now issues monthly “Metrics” graph report instead of detailed narrative provided by former Director Sue McCormick, now GLWA director.

DETROIT – Over 25 percent of Detroit’s residential water customers, a total of 35,857 households, are currently scheduled for water shut-offs or in line for them because they are 60 days past due and owe over $150 in back bills, according to a “Metrics” report by Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) Director Gary Brown dated Aug. 9.

Detroiter Rochelle McCaskill meets in her home, where she lives with three daughters and a grandbaby, with UN reps Oct. 19, 2014. Her water was shut off despite her doctor's letter, posted on her door, thjat she suffers from MRSA, a contagious antibiotic-resistant infection that causes severe sores and boils. She must bathe three times a day and frequently wash her clothes to prevent infecting her family. She almost died of sepsis earlier.

Detroiter Rochelle McCaskill meets in her home, where she lives with three daughters and a grandbaby, with UN reps Oct. 19, 2014. Her water was shut off despite her doctor’s letter, posted on her door, thjat she suffers from MRSA, a contagious antibiotic-resistant infection that causes severe sores and boils. She must bathe three times a day and frequently wash her clothes to prevent infecting her family. She almost died of sepsis earlier.

Another 18 percent, or 25,356, are on frequently unaffordable payment plans. DWSD rates have skyrocketed 120 percent over the last 10 years, They  far exceed those charged in most outlying communities, according to a report announced Aug. 14 by the We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective. The report found also that Detroiters, who have a child poverty rate of 59 percent, are subject to rigid shut-off standards not faced by those in mostly white, middle and upper-class communities

The Detroit News reported Aug. 23 that DWSD, using its contractor Homrich, has shut water off to 13,750 Detroit households from May through July of this year. DWSD awarded a nearly $6 million contract for the work in May. That is more than the $5 million allotted for the WRAP water assistance program by the regional Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), which now controls the former DWSD six-county service area, as well as water and wastewater plants and major mains within Detroit itself.

Residences account for 97 percent of shutoffs, but only 58 percent of delinquent debts, News reporter Joel Kurth said, despite Brown’s earlier promises that commercial accounts would be shut off first.

Detroit water shutoffs chart DN“Shutoffs ramped up in May and, since then, crews have cut water to an average of 150 homes per day,” Kurth wrote.

Brown no longer reports how many houses have been permanently shut-off no matter who moves in, because of past “illegal usage,” essentially wiping them off the map. Desperate for this basic necessity of life, residents there had turned their water back on themselves. Former DWSD Director Sue McCormick, now head of the regional Great Lakes Water Authority, reported that number was 16,078 residential accounts as of Oct. 29, 2015.

Packed hall at "Mapping the Water Crisis" book launch forum Aug. 16, 2016.

Packed hall at “Mapping the Water Crisis” book launch forum Aug. 14, 2016.

Members of the “We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective” said Aug. 14 that the shut-offs and foreclosures resulting from the attachment of unpaid water bills to tax bills, have deliberately targeted and destroyed Black neighborhoods in Detroit, the largest Black-majority city in the U.S.

Speaking to a packed audience at Wayne State University Law School’s Damon J. Keith Center, they called it “genocide.”

Above: Debra Taylor of We the People of Detroit kicks off the forum.

“During the spring and summer of 2014, the water shut-offs in Detroit escalated to an alarming, devastating rate,” Debra Taylor of We the People said. “It seemed from our vantage point that it was mostly poor and Black neighborhoods that suffered the most. We the People of Detroit . . . began to go door-t0-door to inform citizens of the limited resources available and to learn from the residents. We established emergency water relief efforts, the Water Rights hotline, and water stations in four parts of the city for those without running water.” 

More than 28,000 households were shut-off that year, despite a temporary moratorium from July 21 to August 25. The City declared it after thousands filled the streets of downtown Detroit to demand that “Water is a Human Right,’ even coming from Canada. The same day, the “Homrich 9” blockaded the gates of the company assigned to carry out the shut-offs and were arrested.

Blockade at gates of Homrich in 2014 before arrests of "Homrich 9." The company just got another $6 million contract for shut-offs, more than the $5 million allotted for the WRAP water assistance program for the GLWA.

Blockade at gates of Homrich in July, 2014 before arrests of “Homrich 9.” The company just got another $6 million contract for shut-offs, more than the $5 million allotted for the WRAP water assistance program for the GLWA.

United Nations representatives then toured the neighborhoods, speaking to victims of shut-offs, and formally denounced the practice as inhumane and a violation of the UN Declaration of Human Rights charter.

Monica Lewis Patrick , a leader of We the People of Detroit, addresses forum Aug. 16, 2016.

Monica Lewis Patrick , a leader of We the People of Detroit, addresses forum Aug. 14, 2016.

Taylor said Monica Lewis-Patrick of We the People and other groups decided they would have to document the reality of the situation themselves, after the City of Detroit denied their requests for statistical information. They recruited experienced professors to coordinate a study, including Emily Kutil, the project’s lead designer, and Dr. Andrew Herschner of the University of Michigan, and used 30 volunteers to do neighborhood surveys.

The resulting book, “Mapping the Water Crisis—the dismantling of African-American Neighborhoods in Detroit,” includes maps showing the history of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department from its founding in 1900 and its expansion through six counties, prior to its takeover by the regional Great Lakes Water Authority. That takeover was mandated by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes in the Detroit bankruptcy confirmation plan, and carried out June 1, 2015.

Above: Emily Kutil speaks Aug. 16, 2016

“The City of Detroit built that structure and until the end of last year it was operated by DWSD,” Kutil said. “The water infrastructure did as much if not more than the construction of the freeways to subsidize the growth of the suburbs. The City of Detroit handled wastewater treatment everywhere, essentially all at one facility.”

DWSD service area shown in "Mapping the Water Crisis."

DWSD service area map in “Mapping the Water Crisis.”

The study says DWSD’s expansion was “capital intensive,” with its costs borne solely by city residents. Before the GLWA takeover, it says, the DWSD serviced around three million people in an area encompassing 1000 square miles. That was over 40 percent of the state’s population, according to other reports. The DWSD provided and maintained water systems for 125 communities and sewer systems for 77 communities outside of the City of Detroit proper.

“During the second half of the twentieth century,” the study says, “the vast area serviced by DWSD became increasingly divided by race and class, with many suburban communities absorbing the middle-class white population leaving Detroit. [This] created two sets of users of DWSD, one, primarily Black and working class in Detroit, inheritors of a long history of racially unequal access to housing, employment, education and credit, and the other, primarily white and middle- and upper-class in Detroit’s suburban municipalities, beneficiaries of that long history of inequality.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, with hand over Detroit, explains at earlier press conference how DWSD retains control only over minor water mains within city borders, while the regional GLWA has taken control of outlying counties as well as water and wastewater treatment plants within Detroit.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, with hand over Detroit, explains at bankruptcy press conference how DWSD will retain control only over minor water mains within city borders, while the regional GLWA will take control of outlying counties as well as water and wastewater treatment plants within Detroit.

Dr. Andrew Herscher explained much of that history in his report. He noted that marked inequality continues in water shut-off policies, with many suburban communities not allowed to shut water off at all, as if recognizing the human right to water, and others with much more lenient policies on shut-offs than those used in Detroit. DWSD is required to shut off water for arrearages as low as $45.00.

He stressed the profound racial inequality demonstrated by such policies.

The full video of his talk can be accessed at Leona McElvene’s channel, MacSpeaking at (There is a link to her channel in the “Links” column to the right of this page.)

GLWA ownership of all outlying areas in six counties, plus water plants and major mains in Detroit. Graph from bankruptcy press conference.

GLWA ownership of all outlying areas in six counties, plus water plants and major mains in Detroit. GLWA controlled areas are in red. Graph from bankruptcy press conference.

Nadia Gaber, MTSP MD/PhD student at the University of California reported by video on the health impact of the shutoffs, an ongoing study, and outlined the methods used to survey Detroit’s neighborhoods to assess the health crisis.

“In 2014, the UN came to Detroit, and declared a public health crisis,” Gaber said. “So we set out to capture the real picture of the health impact of the shut-offs by adopting [a tool often used by the federal government after natural disasters.] In our case this was a this man-made disaster, a public health disaster. Since there is no public health department in Detroit, we called on community power. We trained over 30 volunteers to survey households in Detroit.

“Over the course of two weeks, we knocked on 388 doors in 22 blocks and got 104 responses. . . .Nearly 30 percent of our contacts had been shut-off, which seems incredibly high. We even talked to someone whose house had been shut-off for a 38 cent unpaid water bill. Fifty percent of the people were on some sort of payment plan. Only 30 percent of the households reported that every one there was healthy. So 70 percent had health issues. Forty-four percent of homes had multiple medical issues. One in four homes had someone living in a wheelchair. A quarter of the residents we surveyed used bottled water as their primary source of water which was a surprising number. Even when people had a large water bill, they were spending three to $100 a week on bottled water. They were worried about the quality and reliability of [water provided by DWSD].”

The report also explains the role that debt to the banks plays in increasing water rates, which the GLWA has declared are “revenue-based,” and the subsequent dramatic increase in water shut-offs in Detroit. VOD has reported before (see article links below) that the City of Detroit’s debt increased three-fold AFTER the bankruptcy confirmation plan went into effect, as contractors were awarded new bonds as well as city property and revenues. DWSD debt was supposed to have been cut $2 billion during the course of the bankruptcy, but the agreement to form the GLWA canceled that cut out, leaving the debt at over $5 billion. It has now skyrocketed to even higher levels.

DWSD debt to the banks amounted to 45% of its total expenses in 2015, according to GLWA chart.

DWSD monthly debt to the banks amounted to over 45% of its “revenue requirements”  in 2015, according to GLWA chart, causing increase in water shut-offs.

The “Mapping the Water Crisis” report also details the history of water shut-offs in context with the imposition of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, and his subsequent declaration of a phony bankruptcy that ended up greatly profiting the banks while impoverishing city retirees and residents, and stealing the major assets of Detroit, including DWSD. It also maps the discriminatory imposition of emergency managers across Michigan, apportioned solely to Black-majority cities.

Below, one graph shows how shut-offs dropped during periods of mass resistance, then began skyrocketing again. There are yet no plans for huge rallies, blockades, and other direct action against the shut-offs.



Monica Lewis-Patrick detailed plans for the future of the campaign, and the panel including Lewis Patrick, Dr. Gloria House, Dr. Herschner, and Emily Kutil answered questions from the audience (in the video below).

“In a couple of weeks, we will be teaching the rest of Detroit how to test their own water. There will also be be an extension of the research campaign. The fourth component is that our babies are brilliant. They came into this work saying we don’t want you to just relegate us to turning on the computer. We have something to really offer. Julia, director of the youth division for WTPRC, has ensured we are connecting our youth to legendary community activists that have done just a yeoman’s job of holding this city together.. They are being trained by Kate Levy to actually chronicle our own stories. This is part of us writing our own history. We’re asking all of you to be a part of [this]. [Report] if you’ve done anything on this campaign, been a part of mobilizing, educating, delivering water, making sure your neighbors have water, then we’re going to create a map of all the activism that’s happened.”

The report also focuses on the number of homes with water bills attached to property taxes that were auctioned off after foreclosure in 2014, a total of 11,959. Those who buy these homes become responsible not only for the back taxes, but also for water bill arrearages.

Below are graphs from the campaign detailing both the number of water shut-offs, as well as the number of foreclosures due to delinquent property taxes, with water bills attached to those taxes.



Organizers explained at the end of the forum that We the People of Detroit has formed a non-profit organization, and that Monica Lewis-Patrick and We the People of Detroit (WTPD) were nominated for a $500,000 grant from the KIND project to continue their program. They said out of 5,000 candidates who applied, WTPD made it to a group of 25, which will be winnowed to 15. Six candidates will win a grant, the top awardee receiving $500,000, with others receiving $100,000 each. A decision is to be made Aug. 31st. They asked people to use the hashtags #monicalewispatrick is #kindawesome for supporting people who don’t have water in Detroit, and also the hashtag #mappingthewatercrisis.

All video snippets of forum, by Leona McElvene can be accessed at:

1/10 – (Approx. 1 minute) – Opening Song by The Flowtown Revue Choir

2/10 – (Approx. 2 minutes) – The Flowtown Revue Choir, STOP Turning Water Off

3/10 – (Approx. 2 minutes) – Hon. JoAnn Watson, We The People of Detroit Organizational Overview

4/10 – (Approx. 6 minutes) – Debra Taylor, The Story of the Community Research Collective (CRC)

5/10 – (Approx. 7 minutes) – Dr. Andrew Herscher, Map Overview

6/10 – (Approx. 12 minutes) – Emily Kutil, Charts/Graphic Overview

7/10 – (Approx. 6 minutes) – Nadia Gaber, Health Impact Study Update

8/10 – (Approx. 30 minutes) – Dismantling of African-American Neighborhoods in Detroit – Q & A

9/10 – (Approx. 7 minutes) – William Davis, President, DAREA; and J.T. Campbell, Arizona State Univ.

10/10 – (Approx. 2 minutes) – Musical Performance by Next Generation Jazz Trio

For more information, visit




Twitter: @WeThePeopleDet

Some of the many organizers who sponsored "Mapping the Water Crisis" take a bow at the end.

Some of the many organizers who sponsored “Mapping the Water Crisis” take a bow at the end.

#monicalewispatrick, #kindawesome, #mappingthewatercrisis, #FlintWater, #KWA, #FlintLivesMatter, #Waterislife, #Beatbackthebullies, #DAREA, #Detroit2Flint, #BlacklivesmatterDetroit, #DetroitWater, #OurWaterOurVote, #Right2Water, #Saveourchildren, #StandupNow, #SaveFlint, #SaveDetroit, #StopWaterShutoffsNOW

Related articles:  

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Obama ISIS

Yes, Obama and Clinton Created ISIS – Too Bad Trump Can’t Explain How It Happened

BAR logo 2by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

August 17, 2016

Clinton supporters rejected out of hand Donald Trump’s charge that she and Barack Obama “created” the Islamic State — and even Trump seemed to retreat from his statement. But, a solid case can be made that Obama and Clinton were, indeed, the “most valuable players” in spawining ISIS. Moreover, it is an historical fact that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia created the international jihadist network from which al Qaida and ISIS sprang, almost four decades ago.

 “Together, the U.S. and the Saudis gave birth to the international Islamic jihadist movement.”

Donald Trump has backtracked — sort of — on his assertion that President Obama and Hillary Clinton are “the founders” of ISIS, or the “most valuable players” on the Islamic State team. “Obviously, I’m being sarcastic,” said the self-styled “America-Firster” – quickly adding, “but not that sarcastic, to be honest with you.”

Afgan women studying before U.S.-imposed coup against progressive regime.

Afgan women studying before U.S.-imposed coup against progressive regime.

Trump cannot articulate or fully grasp the horrific truth of his original statement because that would require a much more fundamental indictment of U.S. imperial policy in the Muslim world since the last days of 1979, when Zbigniew Brzezinski convinced President Jimmy Carter to set the jihadist dogs loose in Afghanistan.

As stated in his memoir From the Shadow [3], Brzezinski advised Carter to aid the right-wing Muslim resistance to the leftist, secular government in Afghanistan in order to “induce a Soviet military intervention” and thus embroil the USSR in a Vietnam-like quagmire. Brzezinski viewed the so-called Mujahadeen as potential foot soldiers of U.S. global policy. “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” Brzezinski asked, rhetorically, decades later.

Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan

Former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan

Having acted in accordance with Brzezinski’s counsel, President Carter can accurately be described as a founding “creator” of al Qaida, along with fellow “most valuable player” Ronald Reagan, whose CIA partnered with Saudi Arabia to spend billions drawing Muslims from around the globe into the war in Afghanistan. Together, the U.S. and the Saudis gave birth to the international Islamic jihadist movement – a phenomenon that had not previously existed in world history. The jihadists would become an essential weapon in the U.S. imperial armory, a ghastly tool for regime change in the Muslim world which also doubled as justification for the never ending American quest for planetary dominance, now that the Soviet boogeyman was gone.

“In 2011, Obama launched the Mother of All Proxy Wars.”

Brzezinski became Barack Obama’s foreign policy guru, with consequences that should have been predictable for U.S. Middle East policy but were largely ignored by liberals and so-called progressives in their euphoria at the exit of George W. Bush.

Libyan Pres. Muammar Gaddafi with leaders from African continent.

Libyan Pres. Muammar Gaddafi with leaders from African continent. He wanted to found an all-African gold-based currency and an all-African military to defend the continent.

Clearly, the U.S. public would not tolerate another episode of massive, direct U.S. troop involvement in the region; that was no longer an option. But what force, then, was available to execute Washington’s unfinished agenda for conquest in this part of the world?

In 2011, Obama launched the Mother of All Proxy Wars, first against Muammar Gaddafi’s government in Libya, then swiftly mobilizing the totality of the international jihadist network that had been created out of whole cloth under Carter and Reagan nearly 30 years before. Washington and its NATO partners in the Libya aggression, in close concert with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, turned Syria into a cauldron of death, funneling billions of dollars in weapons to literally hundreds of Salafist and outright mercenary militias, with Al Qaida’s regional affiliate, al Nusra, at the core. This was Obama’s idea of a “smart” war: a frenzied terror offensive cloaked in lies and deception.

ISIS executes Syrian soldiers in front of terrified civilian population including children.

ISIS executes Syrian soldiers in front of terrified civilian population including children.

The criminal foreign policy pursued by Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is rooted in the same worldview arrogantly articulated by Brzezinski when he derided those who fretted over the blowback that might result from deploying “some stirred-up Moslems” as foot soldiers of imperialism.

As the U.S. and its allies literally competed with each other to flood Syria with the weapons, funds, intelligence resources and diplomatic and media cover to bring down the government in Damascus, they collectively created both the material basis and political space for the jihadists to pursue their own ideological objectives. ISIS emerged, to establish a caliphate of its own in Syria and Iraq. No one should have expected otherwise.

“This was Obama’s idea of a ‘smart’ war: a frenzied terror offensive cloaked in lies and deception.”

Back in July of 2014, we at Black Agenda Report described the rise of ISIS as signaling “the final collapse of U.S. imperial strategy in the Muslim world — certainly, in the Arab regions of Islam.” We wrote [4]:

Salafists in Tunisia

Salafists in Tunisia

“Think of it as a Salafist declaration of independence…from the Arab monarchies and western intelligence agencies that have nurtured the international jihadist network for almost two generations. The Caliphate threatens, not only its immediate adversaries in the Shiite-dominated governments of Syria and Iraq, but the potentates of the Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and the Mother of All Monarchist Corruption in the Arab Sunni heartland, the Saudi royal family. The threat is not inferential, but literal, against ‘all emirates, groups, states and organizations’ that do not recognize that ISIS in its new incarnation is the embodiment of Islam at war.’”

ISIS did not exist when President Obama took office and put Hillary Clinton in charge at Foggy Bottom. His (and her) regime change in Libya and massive, terroristic pivot to Syria “created” ISIS. And, let’s get the history right, on this score: the U.S. did not reject the jihadist death cult that became ISIS; rather, the Islamic State divorced itself from the U.S. and its European and royal allies.

Yet, it still took the Russian intervention in Syria in September of last year to push Washington to mount more than token air assaults against ISIS. Apparently, the U.S. wants to avoid killing too many Islamic State fighters, in hopes that there will be lots of them left to join U.S.-sanctioned jihadist outfits when it gets too hot for ISIS. (Al Nusra has changed its name and resigned from al Qaida — with the blessing of al Qaida’s leadership in Pakistan — so as to better blend in with the other jihadist outfits on western payrolls.)

“U.S. military intelligence saw clearly the imminent rise of ISIS.”

HQ of U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

HQ of U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency.

You don’t need to take Donald Trump’s word for it, that Obama and Clinton have been “most valuable players” for ISIS. The U.S. military’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) came to much the same conclusion, back in 2012. The military spooks’ reports, declassified last year, showed the DIA had warned that “the West, Gulf countries, and Turkey [which] support the [Syrian] opposition” believe “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

The DIA was alarmed [5] that

“…the deterioration of the situation has dire consequences on the Iraqi situation and are as follows:

Estimated distribution of Shia Muslims in Mideast“This creates the ideal situation for AQI [al Qaida in Iraq, which became ISIS] to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi, and will provide a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria, and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world against what it considers one enemy, the dissenters [meaning, Shia Muslims]. ISI could also declare an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”

Thus, a year after Obama and his European and Arab friends brought down Libya’s Gaddafi and shifted their proxy war of regime change to Syria, U.S. military intelligence saw clearly the imminent rise of ISIS — and that “this is exactly” what “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey…want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

Yes, Obama created ISIS, with the enthusiastic assistance of Hillary Clinton, and he is still nurturing al Nusra, the erstwhile affiliate of al Qaida, which was mid-wifed into existence by Jimmy Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski. In the intervening years, the jihadists have become indispensable to U.S. imperial policy, but especially so since George W. Bush’s defeat in Iraq, which soured the American public on “dumb” wars – meaning, in Obama-Speak, wars in which large numbers of Americans die. Proxy wars are ideal — “smart,” because only Arabs and Africans and people that Americans have never heard of, die. Libya wasn’t even a war, according to Obama, since no U.S. personnel perished.

“The jihadists have become indispensable to U.S. imperial policy.”

U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWN

The truth about ISIS and the Obama administration is so obvious that even Donald Trump has a hazy idea of what happened in Syria and Libya. However, the spoiled man-brat white nationalist billionaire from Queens is incapable of putting the Obama/Clinton/ISIS connection in the historical context of U.S. imperial policy. Sadly, most “liberals” and far too many “progressives” (including Black ones) are afflicted with the same disease as Trump: extreme imperial chauvinism — which is practically inseparable from white supremacism.

Extreme imperial chauvinism allows Americans to send to the White House people that should, instead, be sent to the gallows or a firing squad (after a trial, of course). It allows Americans that claim to be on the “left’ side of the spectrum to recoil in horror at Donald Trump (who hasn’t killed anybody that we know of, and who says he will not engage in regime change as president), yet will vote for a woman whose career is soaked in the blood of hundreds of thousands in the Middle East and the northern tier of Africa, and whose husband set in motion a genocide that has killed six million people [6] in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Hillary Clinton

U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

One candidate, Trump, most resembles the late Alabama governor George Wallace with a “let’s make a deal” foreign policy. The other, Clinton, is a genocidal maniac, whose crimes as president will be Hitlerian in scale.

What is scarier than Clinton or Trump, is that Americans seem to have no visceral aversion to genocide (of non-white peoples). But, unless you’re a Green or some shade of Red, genocide isn’t even an election issue.

Glen FordBAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

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Women in Afghanistan before U.S.Intervention

Policy dispute emerges as U.S. faces setback in Syria (Republished from Black Agenda Report)

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Provided by AFP: This week, while barring a rally organised by [anti-Soviet] Mikhail Shneider, Moscow authorities sanctioned a Communist demonstration and former Soviet officials were shown on state TV voicing nostalgia for the repressive regime This week, while barring Shneider's rally, city authorities sanctioned a Communist demonstration and former Soviet officials were shown on state TV voicing nostalgia for the repressive regime.

Provided by AFP: This week, while barring a rally organised by [anti-Soviet] Mikhail Shneider, Moscow authorities sanctioned a Communist demonstration and former Soviet officials were shown on state TV voicing nostalgia for the former regime .

25 years after 1991 coup Russia [swamped by] Soviet nostalgia

AFP logoBy Maria Antonova

August 20, 2016

(VOD has made some clarifying word changes in this article, indicated within […] marks. Some photos and video added by VOD.)

Karl Marx

With Russia marking the 25th anniversary of the abortive coup against then Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev August 22, 1991, Communists waving Marxist pamphlets and Twitter storms praising the Soviet Union are probably not what the thousands of Russians who rallied in 1991 against a coup by [pro-Soviet] hardliners expected to see 25 years later.

And yet as Russia marks the symbolic anniversary of the August 1991 putsch this week, pro-Kremlin media have concentrated on nostalgia for the Soviet regime, while the authorities have barred a rally by those who manned the barricades.

On August 19, 1991, a group of security chiefs and Communist bosses who opposed Mikhail Gorbachev’s decentralising reforms declared themselves in charge, ushering in three days of turbulence.

Calling themselves the State Committee for the State of the Emergency, they said Gorbachev had stepped aside for “health reasons” and sent tanks rolling into the centre of Moscow.

But crowds flocked to the White House parliament building to defend Boris Yeltsin, the president of the Russian republic of the USSR, who was then seen as a symbol of reform and democracy.

For the last 24 years the people who were on the barricades have held a day of remembrance for the abortive coup that was a starting point for the new Russia.

Provided by AFP: On August 19, 1991, a group of security chiefs and Communist bosses who opposed Gorbachev declared themselves in charge, with Russian President Boris Yeltsin (L) gathering his supporters after denouncing the coup. "For 25 years we have been doing exactly the same thing every year," said Mikhail Shneider, the event's organiser. "There's never been a time when they completely denied us."

Provided by AFP: On August 19, 1991, a group of security chiefs and Communist bosses who opposed Gorbachev declared themselves in charge, with Russian President Boris Yeltsin (L) gathering his supporters after denouncing the coup.

This year, Moscow city hall has for the first time refused permission to hold a rally outside the White House, citing complaints about noise from local residents.

“For 25 years we have been doing exactly the same thing every year,” said Mikhail Shneider, the event’s organiser. “There’s never been a time when they completely denied us.”

During the putsch, Shneider was one of the activists calling Muscovites to the barricades around the parliament building, distributing flyers and convincing metro drivers to make an announcement to passengers.

“Our rallies were numerous at first,” Shneider said, but after Vladimir Putin came to power as prime minister in 1999, they started to decrease.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Putin famously called the breakup of the Soviet Union a great catastrophe.

[“First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” Putin said during his state of the union speech in 2005. “As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.” See]

Short-lived euphoria

Yeltsin’s former vice-president Alexander Rutskoi who supported him on the barricades though they later fell out now claimed the putschists had the right idea in 1991.

“The only mistake by the State Committee for the State of the Emergency was to send troops to Moscow,” he said at a news conference organised by state-owned domestic news agency Rossiya Segodnya on Thursday.

Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov. (AFP photo/Andrey Smirnov)

Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov. (AFP photo/Andrey Smirnov)

Meanwhile at state-owned TASS news agency, Communist party chief Gennady Zyuganov gloomily said he wished the coup had succeeded and put the country back on track toward Communism.

Even online, a hashtag #OsuzhdayuRazvalSSSR (I condemn the breakup of the USSR) was shared widely earlier this week, though it was not clear how many of those posting were paid [by the Kremlin].

A survey by Levada independent pollster published this week showed that fewer Russians condemn the putschists, while the number of those supporting their actions was slightly up.

The aborted coup lasted just three days. Its end was seen as the final nail in the USSR's coffin, followed by euphoric speeches and the dismantling of the statue of Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky, seen as a symbol of the KGB's dominance over Soviet society.

The dismantling of the statue of Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky in 1991.

[The euphoria after the break-up of the USSR] was short-lived and today, as Russia plunges deeper into a protracted recession, “the Soviet past beckons with its certainty and predictability,” wrote Vedomosti daily columnist Andrei Sinitsyn.

Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky’s statue is still gone from its former spot outside the security service headquarters and now stands in a park, but in a sign of the times, this summer restorers erased the protest graffiti on its pedestal that demonstrators painted in 1991.


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U.S. Judge O’Meara dismisses motion challenging constitutionality of JLWOP state statutes; motion for reconsideration still pending

Deadline of Aug. 24 looms for prosecutors’ motions on re-sentencing; they have re-recommended JLWOP for 80%; SADO cooperating as defense 

No transparency: Wayne Co. Pros. Kym Worthy filed motions f0r either JLWOP or term of years for 147 prisoners; they are not in court records 

Charles Lewis’ court record still missing, no motion to dismiss his case has been filed by SADO; Worthy has re-recommended JLWOP for him 

Issues remain for other juvenile lifers 

By Diane Bukowski 

August 16, 2016 

Rosie Lewis with her son Charles after his imprisonment in 1977.

Rosie Lewis with her son Charles after his imprisonment in 1977.

DETROIT— “This amounts to genocide,” Rosie Lewis, mother of Michigan juvenile lifer Charles Lewis, who has been in prison for 41 years since the age of 17, said. “They keep our men locked up forever, so they cannot have children and grandchildren.”

She was returning with this reporter from a hearing July 28 in front of U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara on the constitutionality of Michigan state statutes passed after the U.S. Supreme Court 2012 ruling in Miller v. Alabama. The USSC declared juvenile life without parole unconstitutionala violation of the Eighth Amendment as “cruel and unusual punishment.

Judge O’Meara ruled in Hill v. Snyder in 2013 that ALL of the state’s juvenile lifers were parole eligible, citing Miller. 

“. . .a lifetime in prison is a disproportionate sentence for all but the rarest of children, those who crimes reflect ‘irreparable corruption,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said in the subsequent Montomery v. Louisiana decision, handed down Jan. 25, 2016.

OMearabox_0001Despite Attorney Deborah LaBelle’s testimony July 28 that state prosecutors have re-recommended juvenile life without parole for 80 percent of Michigan’s juvenile lifers, on Aug. 3 Judge O’Meara handed down an unexpected ruling. He denied a motion for an injunction preventing further actions by courts until the constitutionality of the state statutes, MCL 769.25 and MCL 769.25a, can be determined. (See links to statutes at end of story.)

The motion was made by LaBelle, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Attorney Ron Reosti. 

Judge O’Meara has not yet held a hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for re-consideration filed Aug. 12. (See box at left for synopses and links to motions at end of story.)

But state prosecutors are moving full speed ahead to meet an Aug. 24 deadline for filing re-sentencing motions, in some cases without sufficient trial records and other information needed to have a legitimate Miller re-sentencing hearing.

The State Appellate Defender’s Office (SADO) was appointed by the state and county prosecution officials as defense counsel in these re-sentencings, for those without paid counsel. It is co-operating with the prosecution in going forward. It earlier refused to challenge the state statutes as the ACLU has done.

Several of Wayne County’s juvenile lifers have reported to VOD that they received letters indicating the prosecutor was recommending either life without parole AGAIN, or a term of years.

Worthy released a statement July 22 saying JLWOP was being sought for 63 Wayne County juvenile lifers, 40 percent of the total, with 81 receiving recommendations for a term of years. She along with most county prosecutors including Oakland County’s Jessica Cooper has long been a fervent advocate of juvenile life without parole, even testifying at state legislative hearings.

Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy at swearing-in in 2004, with adopted daughter Anastasia. She has since adopted twins according to news reports, but appears to have no compassion for Black youth as a whole. Ninety-eight percent of Wayne County’s juvenile lifers are Black.

“Although we had a short amount of time under the statute, we gave a considered and thoughtful review. We combed trial transcripts, prison records, and numerous other documents,” she claimed.

But Charles Lewis, who has spent 41 years in prison for a crime that VOD research showed he did not commit, told VOD he received a letter saying Worthy is seeking JLWOP again for him, with no reasons cited.

Court personnel testified in post-conviction hearings this year in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Qiana Lillard that Lewis’ entire court record, consisting of three cartons of files, has disappeared. His court register of actions shows only entries beginning in the year 2000. There is no official court file on those either, only a sketchy file of documents with no records of action related to the post-conviction hearings kept in Judge Lillard’s office, which the court reporter threw together after VOD’s request to view it.

Under previous Michigan Supreme and Appeals Court rulings, Lewis should have had his conviction vacated and been released pending a possible new trial. The previous rulings are People v Adkins, 436 Mich 878; 461 NW2d 366 (1990),  in which the Michigan State Supreme Court vacated the conviction of the defendant because court reporter files containing his guilty plea were lost. He was released from prison. Earlier Courts of Appeals found similarly in People v Jones, and People v. Horton. (See links at end of story.)

Charles Lewis at age 57.

Charles Lewis at age 57.

“I think that my case is the test case for how missing transcripts and files will be dealt with in the future,” Lewis wrote to VOD. “I also think that if I can successfully challenge the juvenile statute that it will help other similarly-situated juveniles in the future. Right now I’m 57 years old and the best years of my life are behind me. So, I fight to make things better for those coming behind me. Hopefully, if I play my part they won’t have to go through what I’ve gone through.”

Attorney Valerie Newman of SADO is coordinating its defense for Lewis and other state juvenile lifers. Since SADO took over his case,  no further hearings on locating his files or his demand for a dismissal of his conviction have been held. Neither Newman, SADO Deputy Director Michael Mittlestat, SADO Director Dawn Van Hoek, nor State Rep. Rosemary Robinson have yet responded to emails from VOD requesting to know why a motion to vacate Lewis’ conviction has not been filed under SADO’s legal obligation to their client.

(For full email, see:

Atty. Valerie Newman at Feb. prayer breakfast for Davontae Sanford. Newman has received most credit in the mainstream media for Sanford

Atty. Valerie Newman at Feb. prayer breakfast for Davontae Sanford, charged at the age of 14 for four drug-related murders in 2007. Newman has received most credit in the mainstream media for Sanford’s release. However, innocence clinic Attys. David Moran and Megan Crane filed the 2015 motion asking for his exoneration, spending extensive time on the matter. Instead, Newman and an atty. from Dykema Gossett negotiated a settlement for “dismissal without prejudice” of the charges, meaning they can be brought back. Sanford is NOT exonerated.

Newman  told VOD, “The State Appellate Defender Office will vigorously represent all clients in post-Montgomery matters, when appointed by courts to do so.  SADO is Michigan’s only statewide, state-funded, public defender office.  Like the Attorney General, SADO has received some state funding to support litigation in the juvenile lifer cases.  Because prosecutors are seeking life without parole sentences in a large number of cases, and many contested hearings will result, SADO will seek additional funding to support its duty to provide constitutionally adequate representation to its clients.”

Worthy amended her July 22 press release in response to VOD’s questions on the Lewis case.

“In the cases where we recommended life without parole many of the juveniles committed disturbing crimes, and once they were in prison they continued to commit crimes, and have had serious misconduct issues well into mature adulthood,” Worthy said without specifics.

“These are facts that simply cannot be ignored. However, I think that before the re-sentencing hearings begin, that we will receive more records and documents related to the some of the 60 offenders that we will continue to review, because this may cause a different recommendation in some cases. All of our reasoning in these cases will be revealed in court at the re-sentencing hearings.”

Although Worthy said motions had been filed in court July 22, there are none listed in individual files, contrary to law making all such court records available to the public. VOD has left a message for Chief Judge Pro-Tem Timothy Kenny requesting copies of these records.

Edward Sanders

Other juvenile lifers have told VOD they too were notified of prospective prosecutor motions in their cases, but raised some issues.

“The prosecutor agreed to have me resentenced to a term of years,” Edward Sanders, who has served 41 years for a 1975 drive-by killing in which he was not the shooter, wrote. “As you noted, they may very well seek a 40-60 years sentence. I will request 25-40 because the MDOC may very well not give us our good-time which would reduce any sentence to time served. The ACLU is seeking to make this happen as well. I am looking for work as a paralegal. If I have a job offer before I get back to court it may very well give me the low end of the sentence!”

The state statutes bar consideration of good time for juvenile lifers, although it is allowed for every other category of prisoner.

Sanders, incarcerated at Chippewa Correctional Facility, wrote regarding another prisoner there.

Matthew Bentley at 14, when he was charged, and today.

Matthew Bentley at 14, when he was charged, and today.

“This is to inform you about Matthew Scott Bentley. His attorney Douglas R. Mulkoff wrote him and said [he] spoke to Huron County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Rutkowski. He informed me that they have filed a notice of their intention to go forward seeking the LWOP sentence against [him]. The case will go before Richard Knoblock’s successor Judge Prill. . . .[Mulkoff] asked him if any family members were taking a hard line and he said yes, the daughter who lives in Pennsylvania is taking a hard line wanting you to not get a term of years sentence. He asked that Mr. Bentley not lose hope and that his office will not give up.”

Bentley was 14 when he broke into a home, stole a gun, and shot the homeowner. He told the Guardian that he regretted his action at that very second. Nothing is said in Miller about consultation with the families of victims, but such language was included in Michigan’s statutes.

Henry Hill, Jr.

Henry Hill, Jr.

Keith Maxey, currently 25

Keith Maxey

Bentley is one of the original plaintiffs in the ACLU’s Hill v. Snyder case. Henry Hill was originally the first plaintiff. LaBelle has said that he too is facing a prosecutor recommendation of life without parole. Another plaintiff, Keith Maxey, is facing the same recommendation. Maxey is only 25 and recently was denied surgery for life-threatening problems by the Michigan Department of Corrections. Both Hill and Maxey are from Detroit, in Wayne County, where Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office made the recommendations.

It is not known what recommendation Worthy made for Cortez Davis, one of three key juvenile lifers whose cases reached the Michigan Supreme Court under Miller. The MSC ruled against them, saying Miller was not retroactive.

Their cases, along with that of Charles Lewis and several others, made it on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which remanded them back to the Michigan State Supreme Court after the Montgomery ruling on retroactivity. The MSC remanded the cases to the trial judges or replacements, but stating they are to be re-sentenced under the challenged state statutes.


Judge Vera Massey-Jones

Cortez Davis 2

Cortez Davis

But Cortez Davis’ case is unique. His sentencing Judge Vera Massey-Jones ruled in 1994 that juvenile life without parole was unconstitutional, and refused to sentence Davis to that term.

Michigan Appeals Courts overturned that sentence and Massey-Jones’ subsequent rulings after Miller was handed down. In the order below, Judge Massey-Jones again scheduled a re-sentencing hearing for Davis in 2012, but Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy appealed her order and got it overturned. Judge Massey-Jones was set to retire in 2015. It is not currently known if she will return to hear Davis’ re-sentencing or whether another judge will be assigned.

DAVIS orderDavis recently contacted VOD.

“I would like for you to show that the rehabilitation process works and show that it has worked in me,” he said. “Like I told you before, in 1994 I was sentenced to 10 to 40 years and that sentence was taken from me by the Michigan Court of Appeals [citing] the statute that my sentencing judge (Hon. Vera Massey Jones) declared unconstitutional according to the Eighth Amendment at that time. Eighteen years later, in 2012 the United States Supreme Court declared that the same statute that Judge Jones found to be unconstitutional was in fact unconstitutional, therefore, requiring my original sentence to be re-instated.

Eighth AmendmentIn addition to not being the shooter, I am very sorry for the life that was taken and I accept responsibility for my actions, but the current law does not take into consideration that some juveniles were just aiders in a robbery or drug deal, but never had any intentions on anyone getting hurt. Like myself, I never thought that far ahead. I was homeless and just wanted a place to get out of the cold for awhile and I agreed to do something that had never crossed my mind before. However, violence was never something that I just went out and did.”

He added, “The MDOC does not offer lifers anything beyond a GED where education is concerned due to making those with close release dates a priority. If you take a look at my accomplishment as it relates to education, you’ll find that my determination fostered by my recognition for change in myself led me to succeed more than the average prisoner that did not have life. In other words, not knowing if I would ever get out of prison did not stop me from changing my life for the better. I still saw reasons to change and become a better person and now I hope to show society that I am able to live among them and be an asset and not a burden. I want to help with crime prevention. I know that I can reach young people. I do it now with the GOALS program here talking to at risk youths.”

“I ask just for a chance,” he concluded. “My trial judge saw something in me that I did not, but I dedicated my life to making her vision a reality and it is now my vision. I see myself the way I need to be seen and that is as a productive citizen.

Timothy Kincaid

Juvenile lifer Timothy Kincaid, now 54, was 16 when he was charged as an accomplice to an older man in three 1976 murders. VOD attended a hearing June 27 on a post-Montgomery motion for relief from judgment in his case.

“I didn’t think there was any reason for doubt after the Miller v. Alabama ruling, ” Wayne County Circuit Court Judge James Callahan said. “I’ve had a jury treading water since August of last year on another [juvenile lifer] case.”

It was not decided whether judges or juries would handle juvenile re-sentencing cases until a joint Court of Appeals panel ruled July 21 in the case of Kenya Ali Hyatt that judges would be responsible.

Kincaid’s attorney, Gerald Evelyn, said he was “guardedly optimistic” that Callahan would give Kincaid the minimum sentence of 25 years and that he would be immediately paroled. He said a woman who was injured during the multiple murders and is in a wheelchair plans to come to court to ask for Kincaid’s release.

Kincaid’s  friend, now Minister Ervin Bell, attended the June 17 hearing.

Minister Ervin Bell

Minister Ervin Bell (Facebook photo)

“I’ve known him since childhood,” Min. Bell said. “Me and little Tim hung out together just about every day. But I clearly remember the day that [an older man] pulled up on us in his ’77 Fleetwood. Tim was blinded by the flash. Whatever part he played in the murders, he was forced to play. He was not the type to try to hurt anybody.”

Another post-conviction hearing was held Aug. 5, with Kincaid present. A hearing is set for Sept. 29 at 9 a.m. in front of Judge Callahan, likely for Kincaid’s Miller re-sentencing.

As in Kincaid’s case, juvenile lifer Damion Todd was forgiven by the mother of a young woman killed during a shoot-out between two groups of teens. She was on Todd’s visiting list for years until he was moved and her health declined. He said she told him, “I forgive you Damion, and I want you to promise me that when you come that you won’t let me and your family down.”

“I am constantly in a state of anxiety as I eagerly await future Miller/Montgomery re-sentencing hearings, and/or a Hill parole board hearing. I am prepared, as I have just finished completing another class . . . sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and the National Lifers of America geared toward either one of these proceedings. Currently I am helping a few other men to facilitate a class for our group of juvenile lifers.”

Damion Todd

Damion Todd (r) with brother and mother

He said earlier, “From a personal standpoint, while never glorifying this tragic ordeal, I yearn for the opportunity to educate not only at-risk youth, all youth. The consequences of one bad choice will not only change the course of your life, but it will also administer so much psychological harm and pain on the lives of people that you don’t even know. As a man, I refuse to allow anyone’s life that has been tragically lost go in vain, and don’t at least try to open the eyes and ears of some at-risk youth.”

One key sentence in his letter summed up the plight of juvenile lifers in Michigan, which has the second highest number in the country, as well as 2,270 across the U.S.

“Although one of my immediate personal goals is to be the best person I can be under these circumstances, I am constantly and diligently working towards becoming a productive FREE MAN in society which is something I’ve never experienced before BECAUSE I CAME TO PRISON AS A CHILD.”


Related documents:

Related articles:

#FreeMichiganJuvenileLifersNOW, #SaveOurChildren, #PrisonNation, #ENDMassIncarceration, #SchooltoPrisonPipeline, #Breakdownthewalls, #Beatbackthebullies, #Blacklivesmatter, #BlacklivesmatterDetroit, #Blackkidslivesmatter#StandUpNow, #StopWaronBlackAmerica, #StopWaronourYouth, #Michissippigoddam

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Fifty-two percent of African-Americans in the state are under EM rule. The spirit of the Three/Fifths Compromise lives on in Michigan.”–Atty. Sanders

Opponents of “Dictator Act” 436 came from Flint, Detroit, Pontiac, Cincinnati, among other locations

Attorneys: justice will happen not in courts, but by taking it to the streets

Story by Diane Bukowski

Videos by Leona McElvene (except Democracy Now video on Flint water)

August 9, 2016 

Detroit activist Les Little led busload from his city.

CINCINNATI, OH—Busloads of angry opponents of Michigan’s Emergency Manager (EM) Law, Public Act 436, descended on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Aug. 4 to hear their attorneys’ oral arguments in front of a three-judge panel appointed by both former Bush Presidents. The 22 plaintiffs in the case, Phillips et al. v. Snyder, are asking the court to find the law broadly unconstitutional.

“This draconian law has only been used on African-American cities,” said long-time Detroit activist Les Little, organizer of one busload. “It’s nothing but Jim Crow in the 21st century. There is a steady flow of fascism creeping into our cities and across America. This is the most important case of our time.”

The Michigan Legislature passed PA 436 in the dead of night over the 2012 Christmas break, recalling Ku Klux Klan members who, torches blazing, galloped through Black communities in the South for decades, lynching, raping, and pillaging. The law allows Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to remove duly-elected city and school district officials and appoint mini-dictators with full executive and legislative powers instead. He has done so only in majority-Black cities and school districts, which have been stripped of their public assets and even dissolved, in the case of the Detroit Public Schools.

Voters in 83 out of 86 counties repealed PA 436’s identical predecessor PA4 in November, 2012, only to see it replaced with a law made referendum-proof by inserting minor fiscal appropriations clauses.

Video above: Edith Lee Payne, who as a teenager marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington D.C. in 1963, comments on her reasons for going to Cincinnati. She is currently the Executive Director, Lee-Lovett Foundation (LLF).

The new Freedom Riders included city officials and residents of Flint, poisoned by lead-contaminated water under Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s EM Darnell Earley, Detroit school board members whose district has just been abolished under the same EM, Detroit city workers and retirees reeling from cuts imposed under an illegal bankruptcy filed by EM Kevyn Orr, and Pontiac city officials whose city has been stripped of its assets under a series of EM’s.

Pontiac City Council member Kermit WIlliams

Pontiac City Council member Kermit Williams

Pontiac City Councilman Kermit Williams, a plaintiff in the case, wore a T-shirt proclaiming: WE CAN LEAD.

“Sixty-thousand people in Pontiac have lost our city,” Williams told VOD during the ride to Cincinnati.

“After six years and three EM’s, 90 percent of the city has been privatized. We lost our Fire Department to Waterford, where EM Schimmel lives. Out of an original 800 city workers, we may have 35 left. They sold our water treatment plant, our golf course and even our cemeteries without the approval of City Council. They privatized the Buildings and Safety department and janitorial services. The EM signed a three-year snow contract with an outfit that had never plowed snow before. They don’t go from curb-to-curb, only down the middle of the street.”

But he said, “The saddest part for me is the 70 and 80 year old ladies who come to my office crying. They have lost any hope for democracy.”

Freedom Riders from bus organized by Les Little disembark in Cincinnati. On the way back, they were delayed by a flat tire but kept their spirits high.

Freedom Riders from bus organized by Les Little disembark in Cincinnati. On the way back, they were delayed by a flat tire but kept their spirits high.

The courtroom was packed with union members wearing green AFSCME T-shirts (Michigan AFSCME Council 25 is also a plaintiff), and others from Michigan’s beleaguered Black majority cities, as well as AFSCME supporters from Cincinnati. Additional chairs had to be set up in the rear to accommodate the overflow.

Sr. Judge Richard Suhrheinrich

Sr. Judge Richard Suhrheinrich

Judge John A. Rogers

Judge John A. Rogers

Judge Richard Griffin

Judge Richard Griffin

Senior Judge Richard F. Suhrheinrich, appointed to the bench in 1990 by the first Pres. George Bush, and Judges John M. Rogers and Richard Allen Griffin, appointed by former Pres. George W. Bush, listened to the oral arguments, allowing one-half hour per side.

Attorneys John Philo , Julie Hurwitz and Herbert Sanders argued for the plaintiffs from Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Benton Harbor, listed below:

Elena Herrada, Russell Bellant, Catherine Phillips, Joseph Valenti, Michigan AFSCME Council 25, Tawanna Simpson, Lamar Lemmons, Donald Watkins, Kermit Williams, Duane Seats, Juanita Henry, Mary Alice Adams, William Kincaid, Paul Jordan, Bernadel Jefferson, Dennis Knowles, Jim Holley, Charles E Williams, Michael A Owens, Lawrence Glass, Deedee Coleman and Allyson Abrams

PA436box2They are appealing U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh’s ruling of Nov. 19, 2014 in the case. Steeh dismissed eight of nine claims at the state’s request, upholding only the claim based on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which cited the discriminatory use of Emergency Managers only in Michigan’s majority-Black cities.

Steeh, who heard oral arguments in the case April 29, 2014, clearly waited for U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ approval of the Detroit bankruptcy plan, despite having promised a speedy ruling after the oral argument.

The plaintiffs later had Steeh dismiss their Equal Protection claim without prejudice, meaning it can be brought back, then appealed the case as a whole to the Sixth Circuit, Key arguments from their brief (at  ) are at left.

Philo told the Sixth Circuit judges there is no precedent for PA 436 in U.S. history. He noted that both the Sixth Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court, while allowing states a lot of discretion under the 10th Amendment, have never approved replacing elected legislative representatives with appointed individuals. The plaintiffs argue in their brief that city and school board officials are by definition state legislative representatives.

“The Supreme Court has long held that the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1986 protects minority voters from having their votes canceled out,” Hurwitz argued. “PA 436 clearly violates Section 2 of the VRA. Votes end up meaning nothing when an Emergency Manager is appointed. PA 436 is unprecedented. This is not a voting dilution case but a voting elimination case, in which all governmental legislative authority in predominantly African American communities is completely vested in an Emergency Manager.”

Below: “Democracy Now” interview with Flint resident Nayirrah Shariff of the Flint Democracy Defense League

Sanders argued that PA 436 violates both the 1st and the 13th Amendments. He turned and waved his arm at Flint and Detroit residents crowding the court, telling the judges they were there to challenge the catastrophic poisoning of Flint’s water system, and the elimination of the Detroit Public School district under Emergency Managers.

“PA 436 singles out elected officials and deprives them of their right to speak within government on behalf of their electors,” Sanders said. “The right to vote at local levels has a significant impact on voters’ lives. . .For example, at one time the elected Detroit school board determined the curriculum and schoolbooks for Detroit students, but that power was taken away under PA 436.”

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a/k/a PA 436 Slavemaster.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a/k/a PA 436 Slavemaster.

He noted that voters do not have an opportunity to take action against PA 436 as Judge Steeh claimed. The state legislature inserted  fiscal appropriations clausea into it, making it referendum-proof under the state constitution.

To back up Hurwitz’ VRA claim, Sanders listed some of the 12 predominantly white cities not under EM control, but with similar or identical fiscal scores to majority Black communities that have EM’s. Although the state argued it no longer uses the fiscal scoring system, Sanders said it had been used through 2012.

“They include Crystal Falls, 98 percent white with a ranking of 7, Dearborn Heights, 83 percent white with a ranking of 8-9, and Jackson city, 68 percent white with a ranking as high as 7 at one time,” Sanders said. “Fifty-two percent of African-Americans in the state are under EM rule. The spirit of the Three/Fifths Compromise lives on in Michigan. It’s the same way slaveowners used slaves to enhance their political influence. They now put private profit-seeking corporations in charge of government. Just ask the people of Flint, and the parents of DPS students who are here today.”

Below: Freedom Riders on bus sponsored by AFSCME Council 25.

The crowd had difficulty keeping silent as Attorney Ann M. Sherman, representing defendants Gov. Snyder and former State Treasurer Andy Dillon, spoke.

“The plaintiffs challenge the wisdom of the Michigan legislature in passing PA 436,” Sherman said. “It does not run afoul of the Constitution. It is a restorative, temporary measure for the benefit of the state and its credit ratings. Local governments are a creature of the state. . . .The state does get to govern its municipalities. It has just reorganized local entities.”

Judge Rogers asked why powers like a school board’s authority over curriculum, which do not affect finances, are taken away under PA 436.

Below: Andrea Clark, leader of Mothers of Murdered Children, rode the bus to Cincinnati. Crime rates in cities affected by PA 436 have risen due to increasing poverty (59 percent of Detroit’s children live in poverty) brought about by measures like privatization of city jobs and services.

“Michigan for decades had Emergency Financial Managers who could only act in terms of financial decisions,” he said. “It has had decades of laws that have not fixed the situation. . . Can they just get tired and have everything run by the state?”

Judges Suhrheinrich and Griffin also asked at various points about the racial disparity in the application of PA 436.

Sherman claimed local elected officials are not removed from office, but just have their powers suspended temporarily. She said local governments can appeal the state’s rulings and even vote to remove the EM.

In fact, as noted in the plaintiffs’ brief, the Governor can simply appoint another EM after declaring another financial emergency.

Bill Davis, Pres. of DAREA (l) marches with protesters against 30,000 tax foreclosures in Wayne County on June 8, 2015.

Bill Davis, Pres. of DAREA (l) marches with protesters against 30,000 tax foreclosures in Wayne County on June 8, 2015.

“It’s temporary for a long time,” Bill Davis, President of the Detroit Active and Retired Employee Association (DAREA) said after the hearing. “Slavery lasted for hundreds of years.”

DAREA and other groups appealed the Detroit bankruptcy declaration to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments on that case were held last month. DAREA packed that hearing as well.

AFSCME member Gerald Thompson reacted, “They were so disingenuous—don’t talk about disparate impact, the city is a creature of the state. Evidently the air you breathe, the land you have are creatures of the state as well. EM’s create the friends and families plan; they have a monopoly over citizens’ lives.”

Sayeed Sanders

Sayeed Sanders, interviewed by VOD during the bus ride, gave a broad analysis of the situation.

“They knew Detroit was a city with a strong union and Black movement background,” he said. “They couldn’t bring neoliberalism* into the U.S. without taking away the people’s democratic rights here and in Michigan. They are privatizing everything to make a profit.

“For the past 30 years, both Democrats and Republicans have bought into Reaganite policies, market solutions. Even President Obama didn’t move to deal with unemployment and foreclosures. There is no profit in keeping people in their homes. Even Obama’s health care program makes sure the insurance companies make a profit. Bernie Sanders at least signaled that the role of the government was to provide services, but the profit motive is so strong nobody in power cares. During the Democratic Convention, Hillary Clinton brought [retired Marine Corp.] General John Allen on stage. They’re talking about more war—a preview of things to come.”

Retired Marine Corps. General John Allen, who marched on stage with U.S. military veterans, spoke to chants of "USA!" "USA!" at Democratic National Convention.

Retired Marine Corps. General John Allen, who marched on stage with U.S. military veterans at the Democratic Nat’l. Convention, spoke to chants of “USA!” “USA!” responding to his war rhetoric.

The PA 436 Freedom Riders rallied on the steps of the Potter J.Stewart courthouse after the hearing, chanting, “No Justice, No Peace,” and listening to their attorneys’ analysis of the events, as heard in the videos in this story, courtesy of Freedom Rider and long-time community activist Leona McElvene.

Below, attorneys speak after hearing. Shown in front of video at the beginning is DAREA President Bill Davis.

Below, Attorney Herb Sanders is interviewed by Sayeed Sanders.

*VOD: Neoliberalism is a global free market economic philosophy that favors austerity for the people, privatization of government functions for profit, the deregulation of markets and industries, and other policies. It has dominated the world scene for the last 30 years, with the financial crisis of 2007-08 being one of its ultimate results.

To hear complete oral arguments, go to

Related documents:

Related stories:


#JailSnyder, #OverturnPA436, #EndJimCrow, #Justice4Flint, #WATERISLIFE, #StopWaronBlackAmerica, #StandUpNow, #Beatbackthebullies, #Save Detroit, #SaveDPS, #SaveOurChildren

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Some of Detroit's current school board members and supporters attended state loan board meeting in Lansing July 18 to protest theft of $1.5 B in DPS assets, $385 M more in debt.

Some of Detroit’s current school board members and supporters who attended state loan board meeting in Lansing July 18 to protest theft of $1.5 B in DPS assets, $385 M more in debt.

11-member SPEED slate runs in Nov. Detroit Board of Ed elections

Detroit News slams slate and Superintendent candidate Telford

By Dr. John Telford

Aug. 8, 2016

(VOD ed. note: Former DPS Superintendent Dr. David Snead endorsed this article wholeheartedly, sending it in an email to dozens of his contacts.)

Dr. John Telford

Dr. John Telford

Dr. David Snead in 1994.

Dr. David Snead in 1994.

It would appear that the Detroit News thinks I’m Public Enemy Number One (click on the News’  web tab, below).  Actually, their very real fear that I may  get elected has given my Detroit School Board candidacy some good publicity via this  August 5 editorial.

It masqueraded as a legitimate news article, even though this editorializing “article” clearly contains either carelessly or intentionally wrong information about me and [the] reform SPEED platform for Detroit schools, as well as neglecting to acknowledge how the schools got into their present sad fix.

[That was] an entirely unwarranted state takeover commencing way back in 1999, at which time the district had a $114 million surplus and student test scores that were at the state midpoint and rising, but which now has a billion-dollar deficit and scores that are the worst in America except for those of the stolen and failing EAA schools.

Detroit News editor Nolan Finley and writer Ingrid Jacques

Detroit News editor Nolan Finley and writer Ingrid Jacques celebrate dissolution of Detroit.

Anyone who has read my 2010 autobiography ‘A Life on the RUN – Seeking and Safeguarding Social Justice’ available at Amazon Books by typing in Dr. John Telford ( ), knows that I have opposed this disenfranchising state control of DPS and also that I never supported the teaching of ‘Ebonics,’ as Ms. Jacques erroneously asserts.

Quite the opposite–I supported and continue to propound a counter-Ebonics instructional antidote for written and spoken non-standard dialects, and I set forth this instructional antidote in my Superintendent’s Academic Plan when I served pro bono in that capacity for ten contentious months in 2012-2013 as the democratically elected board’s appointee, wherein I clashed on an almost hourly basis with the gubernatorially-appointed Emergency Financial Manager of DPS.

Eight of those good Board members–LaMar Lemmons, Elena Herrada, Tawanna Simpson, Juvette Hawkins-Williams, Wanda Redmond, Patricia Johnson-Singleton, Rev. David Murray, and Ida Short have formulated an eleven-member SPEED Slate of candidates along with me and Victor Gibson and Yolanda Peoples, and I urge you and your friends to vote for me and for six other members of our SPEED Slate for the seven positions on the “new” School Board, which Board is being reduced from the former Board’s number of eleven. ( my acronym ‘SPEED’ stands for ‘Saving Public Education with Excellence in Detroit.’)

Detroit School Board member Elena Herrada with others announcing class action lawsuit for DPS students.

.Detroit School Board members Elena Herrada, Lamar Lemmons, John Telford with others announcing class action lawsuit for DPS students.

Every Detroit voter needs to be aware that the ‘disloyal opposition’ will back corporate-collusive Board candidates financially with the conspiratorial intent to see all Detroit schools chartered within two to three years and thus capture that billion-dollar market for their corporate overseers.   Support your grass-roots-friendly SPEED Slate, which incidentally  is endorsed by longtime schools activist Helen Moore–and e-mail me at or call me at 313-460-8272 for specifics regarding our SPEED Agenda and why SPEED-committed candidates must be elected to save our once-exemplary pre-state-takeover Detroit Public Schools and our resultantly educationally cheated schoolchildren.  Any candidates who decline to commit to the SPEED agenda are either naively unaware of what is viscerally at stake here or are indeed wolves in the woods whose refusal to commit to the SPEED Agenda will flush them out of the woods and expose their true intentions.

See: Ingrid Jacques of the Detroit News attacks John Telford’s DPS board candidacy:

DPS students: their future is at stake.

DPS students: their future is at stake.

Related from VOD

Lawsuit against DPS dissolution:

State Financial Review Committee package on DPS dissolution bills, etc.

Related VOD stories:


#SaveOurKids,  #SaveOurChildren#SaveDPS, #StopSchoolClosings, #MoneyforEducationnotforBanks, #MoneyforEducationnotforwar, #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackLivesMatterDetroit, #BlackEducationMatters, #Beatbackthebullies, #StandUpNow, #StoptheWaronBlackAmerica, #DefendPublicEducation

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Korryn Gaines, 23, mother of 2, shot and killed by Baltimore County police

Son Kody, 5, wounded during confrontation

Police had no SEARCH WARRANT, brought out armored vehicles against mother and child

grio logo


By Chuck Hobbs | August 6, 2016

Ever since Korryn Gaines, 23, was killed in her home in Randallstown, Maryland earlier this week, a number of black women have taken to social media to express their concerns that black men seem unconcerned when black women are killed during law enforcement encounters. While some black men have chosen to take exception and engage in a rhetorical war with respect to these assertions, as a black man and lawyer, I felt that my energies and expertise would be better suited to argue what I and many Americans already believe, which is that Gaines, 23, and a mother of two children, had her constitutional rights violated by law enforcement.

Korryn Gaines, 23, with baby

Korryn Gaines, 23, with baby

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a black lawyer is hearing judges recite the mantra that all citizens are to receive equal justice under the law, while knowing full well that such often is an illusory concept with respect to blacks.

Police officers are presumed to know that the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution generally protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizures. While the police have to secure a warrant to enter into someone’s residence, federal and state courts have further recognized that officers must utilize a “knock-and-announce” rule that, in theory, protects the security, privacy, and property interests of people in their homes. Now, there are exceptions to this rule, most notably that if officers believe that forcible entry is necessary to apprehend an armed individual suspected of committing a violent felony offense, they can burst into a residence or in some drug cases, if police fear that the occupants will destroy evidence, they can burst into a residence.

But with respect to Gaines, she was neither a violent fugitive or suspect nor a dope dealer; the warrants that were being served on Gaines were for misdemeanors. As such, one must question why the police obtained a key from her landlord and attempted to enter her residence despite not having the aforementioned exigent circumstances?

Now, it is important to note that Gaines had a prior encounter with law enforcement that has been uploaded to YouTube where she questioned their authority to draft tickets or otherwise detain her. Whether the officers who went to her apartment to serve the misdemeanor warrants knew this in advance has yet to be determined, but according to reports in the Baltimore Sun, when they used the key, the chain latch prevented their entry and at that point, officers kicked the door in, allegedly observed Gaines pointing a shotgun at them, and backed out of the apartment. After an hours long standoff, a SWAT officer shot and killed Gaines and wounded her five year old son.

It has been very frustrating to read comments on both social and traditional media where people have dismissed Gaines death as being her fault because “she was crazy” or because she did not follow commands from the police. First, while rarely discussed, under common law, citizens have a right to resist unlawful commands from law enforcement up to and including deadly force. Knowing that Gaines often spoke out against bad police practices, how do we know for certain that Gaines was not in fear that law enforcement was there to retaliate?

Philando Castile

Philando Castile

For those who would answer this question by suggesting that had she just complied, that she would be alive, I remind that Cliven Bundy’s followers, most of whom were white, did not comply with orders to remove themselves from federal property and they were not shot within hours of the first commands to leave. I also point out that Philando Castile’s compliance with providing his license and notifying St. Paul, Minnesota police Officer Jeronimo Yanez that he had a concealed weapons permit still did not prevent said officer from killing him.

The U.S. Constitution does not provide for a fascist police state in which law enforcement officers are endowed with a right to kick down doors, shoot first and ask questions later.

One of thousands of Black Lives Matter protests

One of thousands of Black Lives Matter protests

The Framers of the Constitution were absolutely opposed to such unfettered authority based upon their experiences of unreasonable searches and seizures by the British government during the colonial era. But with the issue of police encounters with private citizens having become politicized, with the Black Lives Matter Movement championed by progressives being countered by conservatives who insist that there is a war on the police, it is vitally important that law enforcement officials are forced to follow the letter of the laws that govern their rights and responsibilities in all situations, but especially where the potential use of deadly force is concerned.

Attorney Chuck Hobbs

Attorney Chuck Hobbs

I sense that had such caution been used this week, if the police had allowed Gaines’s mother, Rhonda Dormeus, to speak with her daughter or had crisis negotiators been given more time to quell the situation at Korryn Gaines’s apartment, that she most definitely would still be alive and not yet another hashtag clamoring for justice.

Chuck Hobbs is a trial lawyer and award winning freelance writer based in Tallahassee, Florida. Follow him on Twitter @RealChuckHobbs




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Atty. Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, whose own grandfather was killed by a group of teens, appears at the beginning of this video. He won U.S. Supreme Court rulings banning death sentences for juveniles, life without parole for juveniles in non-homicide cases, and finally, Miller v. Alabama, which abolished mandatory JLWOP.

U.S. District Court Judge Corbett O’Meara conducted hearing July 28, originally ordered all juvenile lifers eligible for parole after 10 years

“Michigan has thumbed its nose at the U.S. Supreme Court which said LWOP appropriate only for the rarest child”—Atty. Deborah LaBelle

State statutes challenged–allow JLWOP re-sentencing without cause, and 25-60 years maximum for those given term of years

Prosecutors want “cradle to the grave” sentences–only one juvenile lifer has lived past 60 years in prison

By Diane Bukowski

July 31, 2016

MDOC denies Keith Maxey vital surgery offered pro bono.

MDOC denies Keith Maxey vital surgery offered pro bono.

Ann Arbor, MI – After a July 28 federal court hearing on efforts by Michigan’s county prosecutors to re-sentence 80 percent of the state’s juvenile lifers to life without parole, Attorney Deborah LaBelle ardently advocated for juvenile lifer Keith Maxey with representatives of State Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office.

“It took us years to get a doctor to donate his services for the ileostomy surgery that Keith desperately needs,” LaBelle told Assistant AG’s Eric Restucci and Margaret Nelson. “But yesterday the Department of Corrections called the hospital to cancel his surgery appointment, and now our doctor has to leave the state for seven months.”

The AG’s representatives didn’t have any solution or apparent concern about this life-threatening situation.

Maxey, now 25, was 16 when he was shot multiple times during a robbery gone bad involving drug dealers without drugs and buyers without money. He was the only one without a gun, LaBelle told VOD, but was sentenced to natural life for felony murder. He is among 80 percent of the state’s juvenile lifers that prosecutors want to die in prison.

Maxey’s treatment typifies this state’s attitude toward its 363 juvenile lifers, according to LaBelle’s presentation in front of U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara.

U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O'Meara

U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara

O’Meara ruled in 2013 that ALL Michigan juvenile lifers are eligible for parole after serving 10 years, in a lawsuit filed by LaBelle and the American Civil Liberties Union in 2005.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals essentially upheld Corbett O’Meara’s ruling May 11. They sent it back to him for possible revisions in light of Montgomery, and to allow time to challenge the constitutionality of two 2014 state statutes under which prosecutors want to handle the JLWOP re-sentencings.

“After Miller there was such hope, but then we had to wait four years for the Supreme Court to rule in Montgomery v. Louisiana that Miller was retroactive,” LaBelle said. Her co-counsel were Daniel Korobkin of the American Civil Liberties Union in Michigan, and Ron Reosti. The National ACLU is also a signatory to the case.

“Now we face a painful situation where state prosecutors are filing for most juvenile lifers to get the same sentence again, dashing hopes once more,” LaBelle said. “Michigan has thumbed its nose at the U.S. Supreme Court which said that LWOP is appropriate only for the ‘rare and unusual’ youth offender.”

JLWOPboxlighterAfter Montgomery, many of the state’s juvenile lifers who contacted VOD were so filled with hope that they began having friends and family members find jobs, education and housing for them, thinking their release was only months away.

In actuality, no hearings are expected until the Michigan State Supreme Court rules on two cases. Tia Skinner, now 23, was convicted of felony murder, but her case is still pending a state Supreme Court ruling on whether a jury, not a judge, must consider Miller factors. An appeal is also pending in the case of Kenya Hyatt, who was re-sentenced to JLWOP although he is also 23 and has had no opportunity to show his capacity for rehabilitation.

LaBelle said one-third of the state’s juvenile lifers did not actually commit a murder. They were convicted of felony murder basically for being in the company of the killer, frequently an older individual.

County prosecutors rushed to file notices of intent to re-sentence juvenile lifers by July 22, prior to the July 28 date set by Judge Corbett O’Meara to hear a motion for a preliminary injunction pending a determination of the constitutionality of the state statutes. He earlier granted a temporary restraining order against the prosecutors pending the full hearing, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said he did not have the authority to grant a TRO, only to hear the motion for an injunction.

In her amended motion for a preliminary injunction, LaBelle says state statute MCL 769.25a, under which state prosecutors want to re-sentence juvenile lifers, is unconstitutional. It does not give individualized attention to each lifer as required under Miller, assessing numerous mitigating factors related to the offender’s youth and background. For those not re-sentenced to JLWOP, it requires sentences ranging from 25 to 60 years, and does not allow consideration for earned “good time. See statute at

Atty. Deborah LaBelle has fought for the rights of juvenile prisoners for decades.

Atty. Deborah LaBelle has fought for the rights of juvenile prisoners for decades.

“Here, only one youth has made it past serving 60 years before dying in prison, so these are cradle to the grave sentences,” LaBelle said.  “Michigan is on an island standing on the wrong side of history.

Twelve State Supreme Courts have ruled in line with Montgomery that Miller is indeed retroactive, making a total of 17 states that outlaw JLWOP in whole, and five more that outlaw it in part. The U.S. Department of Justice has concurred, so federal juvenile lifers are being re-sentenced under Montgomery.

Philadelphia had the highest number of juvenile lifers of any jurisdiction in the U.S., a total of 300. But the city’s District Attorney Seth Williams has now outlawed JWLOP on a retroactive basis for any of them.

“It’s my goal to give all of these individuals some light at the end of the tunnel,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “As long as I’m the D.A., we will not be asking for cases going forward for life without the possibility of parole for people under the age of 18 because of the same exact reasons articulated by the Supreme Court in Miller.

Miller-Retroactivity-MapInstead, he said he will seek sentences between 20 and 35 years to life, depending on the age and nature of the crime. Two juvenile lifers, Tyrone Jones, now 59, and Henry Smolarski, now 53, both convicted in 1975, have now been re-sentenced accordingly and are eligible for parole, having served the maximum time.

Jones has been claiming his innocence in a gang-related execution for years, according to the Inquirer. 

Jones’ situation mirrors that of Michigan juvenile lifer Charles Lewis, whose mother Rosie Lewis attended the July 28 hearing. Lewis, who has served 41 years since 1975 at the age of 17, has long contended that he is innocent. His claim was backed up at trial by the partner of the police officer killed in a drive-by shooting, who identified another killer not connected to Lewis. His alibi witnesses who said he was elsewhere at the time of the killing, but were never allowed to testify.

On the ride back to Mt. Clemens, where Mrs. Lewis lives, she gave a heartbreaking account of her 41 years of struggle for her son’s freedom. She has attended virtually every court hearing in his case, even traveling to Cincinnati for his Sixth Circuit appeals hearings.

“Everyone knows how fiercely I have fought for all my children,” Mrs. Lewis said.

"Second Chance" families, as well as victims of juvenile lifers, gathered at Michigan State Capitol in 2007 to fight to abolish JLWOP. Photo: Diane Bukowski

“Second Chance” families, as well as victims of juvenile lifers, gathered at Michigan State Capitol in 2007 to fight to abolish JLWOP. They were later sold out by Legislature, which passed restrictive MCL 769.25a in 2014.
Photo: Diane Bukowski

She and her daughter Wendy were active for many years with the Second Chance group prior to the Miller and Montgomery rulings. That alliance fought to get state laws changed to abolish juvenile life without parole. Instead, substitute legislation was enacted by the Legislature that gutted Second Chance’s original intent. Wendy Lewis recalled that during hearings on the legislation, families of juvenile lifers were cut off from testifying due to time limits. However, prosecutors like Kym Worthy and Jessica Cooper were given ample time to present their side supporting JLWOP.

Philadelphia juvenile lifer Tyrone Jones, with family, was re-sentenced to parolable term after city's DA banned all JLWOP sentences.

Philadelphia juvenile lifer Tyrone Jones, with family, is now immediately eligible for parole, after city’s DA banned all JLWOP sentences.

Worthy even had a video of a Coney Island robbery and killing by several Detroit youth played, as if that typified the majority of Black youth in the city. 

Restucci and Nelson argued that Judge Corbett O’Meara has no jurisdiction to overturn state legislation. Restucci recited a list of particularly heinous crimes, including one decapitation and one individual who raped and killed a nine-year-old, that are not typical of most crimes committed by the state’s juvenile lifers.

On the eve of the federal court hearing July 28, most mainstream media concentrated on similar statements released by county prosecutors, which focused on isolated cases, not the entire population. There was no mention of the pending hearing in front of Corbett O’Meara.

“There are approximately 350 juvenile lifers in Michigan,” Restucci said. “Prosecutorsare recommending renewed life without parole for 250, leaving 100 who can get a sentence up to 60 years. Eighty percent of offenders are released within one year of their earliest release date, so a substantial number will receive parole. We don’t know how many will actually get which sentences, which are up to the judges.”

Michigan Asst. AG Eric Restucci speaking at rally against the Affordable Care Act. He said it violates “religious liberty.

Judge Corbett O’Meara said he will issue his ruling shortly, after reviewing transcripts of the hearing. He said he is considering a grave issue, “taking freedom away from people for life.”

“It’s puzzling and painful to know where it’s going from here,” Judge O’Meara said. “I don’t know exactly what I can do, although I have a much better idea of what should happen in terms of juvenile life without parole, but it’s what I have to do and should do under the law.”

Three hundred sixty-four juvenile lifers are awaiting his ruling. Since there is yet no injunction in place, prosecutors and defenders, mainly from the State Appellate Defenders’ Office (SADO) are going forward with hearings.


Facebook page for Fair Sentencing of Youth at

Related documents:

Related stories:


#FreeMichiganJuvenileLifersNOW, #SaveOurChildren, #PrisonNation, #ENDMassIncarceration, #SchooltoPrisonPipeline, #Breakdownthewalls, #Beatbackthebullies, #Blacklivesmatter, #BlacklivesmatterDetroit, #Blackkidslivesmatter#StandUpNow, #StopWaronBlackAmerica, #StopWaronourYouth, #Michissippigoddam


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