MICHIGAN’S JUVENILE LIFERS WANT STATE TO COMPLY WITH U.S. SUPREME COURT RULING

Some of Michigan’s 371 juvenile lifers involved in current litigation: (l to r, top through bottom row), Cortez Davis and Raymond Carp, awaiting re-sentencing under USSC decision; plaintiffs in USDC case Henry Hill, Keith Maxey, Dontez Tillman, Jemal Tipton, Henry Hill, Nicole Dupure, Giovanni Casper, Jean Cintron, Matthew Bentley, Bosie Smith, Kevin Boyd, Damion Todd, and Jennifer Pruitt; Edward Sanders and David Walton, in prison since 1975 at the age of 17; (photos show some lifers at current age, others at age they went to prison).
  •  State AG Schuette wants them to die behind bars
  • AG lost Davis case; re-sentencing set for Nov. 16, 2012
  • AG now part of  Raymond Carp appeals case
  • USDC Judge O’Meara considering answer to Mich. ACLU motion; his ruling could override appeals court on Carp

By Diane Bukowski 

October 25, 2012 

Michigan AG Bill Schuette. Photo: Wikimedia.org.

DETROIT—Despite the Michigan Supreme Court’s refusal  Sept. 7 to halt the re-sentencing of Cortez Daviz (shown above), Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette is continuing his crusade to have Davis and the rest of Michigan’s 371 juvenile lifers die behind bars.

Michigan has the second highest number of juvenile lifers in the country. Seventy-four percent of them are prisoners of color, according to a study by the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Davis, of Detroit, was 16 when he was sent to prison in 1993 in a felony murder case. But in June, the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed mandatory juvenile life without parole sentences for any crime, in Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Hobbs.

Wayne Co. Prosecutor Kym Worthy listens to top assistant prosecutors including Robert Moran (r) during court hearing.

The Michigan Supreme Court refused to hear arguments from Schuette and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy against Davis’ re-sentencing.

“We REMAND this case to the Wayne County Circuit Court for reconsideration of the defendant’s successive motions for relief from judgment in light of Miller v. Alabama . . . .including the question whether Miller applies retroactively to cases that have become final on direct review,” the state high court wrote.

Judge Vera Massey Jones/Photo: Legal Aid and Defender Association

Wayne County Circuit Judge Massey Jones is now set to conduct Davis’ re-sentencing hearing on Nov. 16, 2012 at 9 a.m.

“We’re pretty excited to have this back at the trial court,” attorney Dylan DuVall, who along with Clinton Hubbell represents Davis, said in published remarks. “That’s where they belong, in the community where they occurred, where the judge is familiar with the case.”

He said he and Hubbell will ask that Davis be re-sentenced to time served.

Raymond Carp in prison six years after conviction at age of 15.

“We are not victimizing the community or anyone else with these re-sentencings,” Hubbell said earlier.  “The individuals in question did not actually commit the offense for which they were sentenced, first-degree murder, and they had diminished culpability as juveniles.”

Now Schuette has gone after Raymond Carp, 15 when he was sent to die in prison in 2006 for a murder his adult brother confessed to committing in Michigan’s St. Clair County. His brother testified that Carp did not actively participate in the crime, although a hearsay witness told the court that Carp confessed his participation to him.

Schuette (pronounced “shooty”) has said he considers all juvenile lifers “teen-age murderers” despite a study showing that the majority were not the “principal actors” in the crimes involved.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the majority opinion in Miller v. Alabama,

“Hauling hundreds of crime victims and their families back into court to relive these horrific murders would be cruel, unusual, and unnecessary,” Schuette said in a release, repeating terms U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan used to characterize sentencing children to death in prison. The USSC ruled that such sentencing violated the Eighth Amendment.

“Fortunately that scenario can be avoided by following established court precedent that says U.S. Supreme Court rulings addressing criminal justice processes are not retroactive.”

A Michigan Court of Appeals panel heard Carp’s case Oct. 16. Schuette and the state prosecutors’ association faced a formidable array of adversaries. They included the State Appellate Defenders’ Office (SADO), the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan (CDAM), the Michigan Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the University of Michigan Law School Juvenile Justice Clinic.

Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller were both 14 when they were sentenced to death in prison in Arkansas and Alabama, respectively.

These and other organizations have promised to represent every one of Michigan’s juvenile lifers, beginning with those who were not the principal actors and have served the longest terms.  They contend that Miller v. Alabama is clearly retroactive.

Presiding Judge Michael Talbot was on the panel that denied Carp’s earlier appeal. In 1986, as a Detroit Recorders’ Court Judge, he caused gasps when he sentenced Damion Todd (shown in group photo above), 17, to mandatory life in prison without parole at hard labor and in solitary confinement, for murder. He added another term of 100 to 200 years for assault with intent to commit murder.

Charles Jones with daughter Aiyana Stanley-Jones before her shooting death by Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley.

Talbot was on the appeals panel that summarily overturned Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Richard Skutt’s recent ruling barring “jail-house snitch” Jay Schlenkerman from testifying against Charles Jones, the father of Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

The child was seven when Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley shot her to death. Jones’ attorney, from Geoffrey Fieger’s firm,  is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the appeals ruling.

Ignoring the state high court’s refusal to weigh in on Miller, Talbot questioned whether the USSC ruling was “substantive” during the Oct. 16 hearing.

“If Kagan had the votes, she would have said it was substantive. But it’s not clear because she didn’t,” Talbot said.

Appeals Court Judge Michael Talbot in 2009. Photo: Detroit Transportation Club.

“Rulings are deemed substantive if they prohibit a certain category of punishment for a class of offenders on the basis of their status or offense,” Carp’s attorney Patricia Selby countered. “In this case… what they banned was mandatory application without parole.”

She said that Miller v. Alabama clearly reflected the intent of the USSC, since the court previously banned mandatory death sentences as well as mandatory juvenile life without parole in non-homicide cases.

“We think because this involves something as significant as the Eighth Amendment,” Selby said, “that it should apply, and that it’s basically telling the courts they have to take a whole new look at people in Mr.Carp’s position.”

SADO Attorney Jonathan Sacks stressed the Supreme Court’s ruling mandating individualized sentencing for juveniles, based on seven factors (see sidebar.)

Sacks and Selby also asked the court to consider changing first-degree sentences for juvenile lifers to second-degree sentences, which would automatically allow parole.

Edward Sanders is one of the state’s longest-serving juvenile lifers, having gone to prison in 1975 at the age of 17 for a drive-by killing in which he was not the shooter.  He has now been assigned an attorney, Susan Reed, who is currently preparing his motion for re-sentencing.

Sanders, who obtained his bachelor’s degree while incarcerated and functions as a “jail-house lawyer,”  said that he had offered the ACLU his input on the issue of substituting second-degree sentencing before the Oct. 16 hearing.

“I noted a precedent, People v. Jenkins, 395 MI (1975), which remanded a case to the trial court for re-sentencing due to a failure to instruct the jury on the possibility of a second-degree charge,” Sanders said.

The Michigan ACLU report says that juveniles, who are not familiar with legal options and frequently have court-appointed attorneys, often turn down pleas to lesser offenses.

Sanders’ co-defendant David Walton (in group photo bottom right) was also 17 at the time of the alleged crime. Another occupant of the car, under severe pressure from prosecutors and now retired Detroit Police Deputy Chief James Younger, testified that Walton was the shooter. That individual tried to hang himself during a break in the trial according to transcripts.

Edward Sanders as youth; he is shown above in group photo, bottom, second from right.

Younger went on to head the city’s notorious Gang Squad, which since has been severely cut back due to criticisms of its methods. The Detroit Police Department has been under federal oversight since 2001 for issues including excessive force and wholesale witness round-ups, which occurred in the Sanders-Walton case.

Just prior to the Carp hearing, U.S. District Court Judge John Corbett O’Meara of Michigan’s Eastern District heard a motion Sept. 20 for “summary judgment and equitable relief” in a long-standing federal lawsuit filed by the state ACLU on  behalf of 13 juvenile lifers. His ruling in that case may supercede whatever the Appeals Court decides.

Judge Corbett O’Meara earlier refused to dismiss the case as the state requested.

Attorney Deborah LaBelle argued the motion, filed on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court decision. It asks that state law allowing juvenile life without parole accordingly be found unconstitutional.

“As parents, teachers and older siblings, we inherently understand that kids are fundamentally different than adults,” LaBelle said in May while announcing the release of a report, Basic Decency: An Examination of Natural Life Sentences for Michigan Youth.

Attorney Deborah LaBelle

“They are impulsive, inexperienced, vulnerable to mistreatment, and are not able to easily escape or cope with abuse and other trauma. While there is no denying that youth must be held accountable for actions, as a state, we can do better than sentencing them to die in prison.”

During the Carp hearing, Judge Talbot asked attorneys for both sides to come up with proposals for legislative solutions to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decisions. However, recent actions in other states show there are pitfalls in such solutions.

The state with the highest number of juvenile lifers is Pennsylvania, with 444. The Pennsylvania State House voted 174-20 on Oct. 20 for a measure that would give defendants under age 15 at least 20 years for second-degree murder and 25 years for first-degree murder. Those 15-17 would receive minimum sentences of 25 and 35 years respectively. The measure is supported by Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor Tom Corbett, according to a report from the national Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.

In California, where more than 309 juvenile lifers are incarcerated, the third highest number in the U.S., Governor Jerry Brown signed a measure Sept. 30 allowing juvenile lifers to ask judges to reconsider their sentences after at least 15 years in prison. The judges would then be able to reduce no-parole sentences to 25-years to life.

Previously, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad commuted the sentences of the state’s 38 juvenile lifers to 60 years, a measure roundly condemned by youth advocates as unduly harsh.

None of the states’ legislative remedies appear to allow for individual consideration of cases by the sentencing judges as Miller mandates, although California’s measure has been hailed by some opponents of juvenile life without parole.

Related documents, links and articles:

http://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/file/BasicDecencyReport2012.pdf.

http://secondchances4youth.org/basicdecency/

http://eji.org/ (Equal Justice Initiative, which won Miller v. Alabama, Hobbs v. Jackson.)

http://www.endjlwop.org/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/08/16/michigan-challenges-u-s-supreme-court-ruling-on-juvenile-life-without-parole/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/07/02/us-supreme-courts-juvenile-lifer-decision-brings-hope-to-thousands/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/07/02/nations-high-court-ends-mandatory-life-without-parole-sentences-for-youth/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/03/18/us-supreme-court-to-hear-key-juvenile-lifer-homicide-cases-march-20-2012/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2012/03/04/juvenile-lifer-anthony-jones-wins-new-sentence-battle-for-justice-for-all-juvenile-and-parolable-lifers-still-needed/

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/11/11/why-michigan-has-more-juvenile-life-sentences-than-almost-any-other-state/

To download and print copy of this story in PDF, click on Michigan juvenile lifers want state to comply with US Supreme Court ruling VOD.


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MICHIGAN’S JUVENILE LIFERS

Families AND VICTIMS of Michigan’s juvenile lifers packed the State Captiol in 2006 to lobby for legislation to outlaw juvenile life without parole. No such laws were ever passed. Now Michigan Atty. General Bill Schuette is fighting every attempt by juvenile lifers to be re-sentenced as the U.S. Supreme Court mandated in Mlller v. Alabama/Hobbs v. Jackson.

 

EDITORIAL

Michigan’s juvenile lifers

Published: 10/22/2012

Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court finally banned mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders, including Michigan’s Draconian juvenile-lifer law.

Yet some states with these practically barbaric laws continue to resist efforts to bring their criminal justice systems in line with the Constitution. They should move expeditiously to rehear and resentence the nation’s 2,600 juvenile lifers.

Thomas McCloud, Jr. and Dontez Tillman of Pontiac, Michigan were sentenced to life without parole at the age of 14 four years ago.

More than 350 juveniles, some as young as 14, have been sentenced to life without parole in Michigan — among the most in a nation that stands alone in imposing such sentences on children. Michigan ranks second only to Pennsylvania, which has 475 juvenile lifers.

Others in the top ten include Florida with 355 juvenile lifers, Louisiana with 238, and Illinois with 98. The Supreme Court ruling affects 28 states. Ohio does not have a mandatory juvenile lifer-without-parole law, although it does have 38 prisoners under the age of 18 among its 49,000 inmates.

States with mandatory juvenile lifer laws should try to remedy these injustices as soon as possible, by rehearing the cases of those who are currently convicted, and enacting constitutional sentencing laws for future cases. In Michigan, bills that would enact new juvenile sentencing laws have not been introduced.

The state’s attorney general, Bill Schuette, maintains that the Supreme Court ruling applies only to new offenders and juvenile lifers who haven’t finished their appeals. Nonsense. Those who were sentenced under a law that has been deemed unconstitutional should, at the very least, get a second look.

Michigan’s juvenile lifer law covers homicide cases only, but nearly half of the state’s juvenile lifers didn’t actually kill. Instead, they were convicted of aiding and abetting the crime, which can mean little more than being at the scene or some other peripheral involvement.

The Supreme Court ruling requires judges to consider the backgrounds of individuals and details of their crimes before sentencing. Sentences can’t be automatic, as they were in Michigan.

Banning such laws is consistent with science, logic, and common sense. Medical brain-imaging research has proved what every parent knows: Teenagers are more impulsive than adults, even without the abuse and neglect many young offenders have experienced.

Juveniles don’t possess the same rights and responsibilities as adults because of their maturity levels. Imposing adult penalties on someone who is too young to buy a pack of cigarettes legally is irrational.

Despite compelling legal, moral, and practical arguments, Michigan lawmakers have failed for more than a decade to abolish the state’s Draconian juvenile lifer law, enacted in the 1980s, even though repealing it would not, in itself, release a single prisoner. A new law would only give juvenile lifers a chance to earn a parole after they serve lengthy sentences.

Many juvenile lifers in Michigan have already served decades in prison. Two-thirds are African-American.

Michigan is not the only state that is dancing around the high court ruling. Iowa’s governor commuted mandatory life sentences for his state’s juveniles — on the outlandish condition that they stay in jail for 60 years before they seek parole. That’s tantamount to the life sentences the high court outlawed.

Fighting the Supreme Court decision with unjustifiably narrow legal interpretations, or sidestepping it with unreasonably lengthy minimum sentences, will neither pass constitutional muster nor move states out of the Dark Ages.


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JUSTICE FOR AIYANA JONES AND FAMILY! RALLY MON. OCT. 29 8 AM FRANK MURPHY HALL

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HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: EXECUTIONS OF LIBYA’S GADHAFI, SUPPORTERS A ‘WAR CRIME’

BY RT.COM | LAST UPDATED: OCT 25, 2012 – 10:25:30 AM

Re-published in The Final Call http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/World_News_3/article_9307.shtml

Col. Muammar Gadhafi, leader of the Libyan People’s Jamahirya and also of the African Union, had proposed separate African currency, army to unite continent.

Also article in San Francisco Bay View:

http://sfbayview.com/2012/bani-walid-pays-price-for-refusing-to-accept-the-mark-of-the-beast/

(RT.com) – Libyan rebels abused and mass murdered Colonel Muammar Gadhafi, his son Mutassim, and 66 loyalists, after their capture a year ago, Human Rights Watch says. It calls for an investigation and prosecution of those responsible for what they slam as a war crime.

The 50-page report “Death of a Dictator: Bloody Vengeance in Sirte” details the last hours of Muammar Gaddafi’s life on October 20, 2011, when he was caught trying to leave the city with his remaining supporters.

Bodies of apparent execution victims found at the Mahari Hotel in Sirte on October 21, 2011, the day after the final battle with the Gaddafi convoy (left). An estimated 66 captured members of the Gaddafi convoy were apparently executed at the site by opposition fighters. Human Rights Watch researchers visited the site on October 23, 2011, and found the decomposing bodies of 53 apparent execution victims, all male, still at the scene. Photo: Human Rights Watch

HRW admits difficulty in reconstructing the final days of Libya’s ex-leader since “he was surrounded by a small circle of trusted confidants and bodyguards, most of whom were killed in the attempted escape from Sirte,” stated the report.

The report relies heavily on interviews with Mansour Dhao, a senior security official and head of the pro-Gaddafi People’s Guard, and other surviving witnesses of the event. The interviews took place in Libya two days after Mr. Gadhafi’s death.

Capture, abuse, murder

Col. Gadhafi is said to have fled Tripoli with a handful of his trustful men in the end of August to his hometown of Sirte, where he “spent most of his time reading the Koran and praying,” Mr. Dhao told HRW.

“His communications with the world were cut off. There was no communication, no television, no news,” he added.

Mutassim Gadhafi visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in 2009. Clinton reportedly gave the order for his father’s execution two years later.

On Oct. 20, Col. Gadhafi’s son Mutassim deemed the situation unsafe and organized a 50-vehicle convoy for all to flee the city in the morning. The convoy consisted of 250 people, including civilians who supported Col. Gadhafi.

As the cars were trying to make their getaway, they were struck by a NATO air-fired missile, which exploded next to the car carrying Col. Gadhafi. In defense, the convoy turned on to a dirt road, but was pinned down by militia fighters and then further bombed by NATO fighter jets.

NATO jet firing missile over Libya. Such a missile struck Gadhafi’s convoy before he, his son and 66 supporters were slaughtered by counterrevolutionaries.

After the bombings Col. Gadhafi, accompanied by 10 other people, including his bodyguards, tried to take shelter by a drainage pipe, but was once again attacked by militia.

One of Col. Gadhafi’s bodyguards reportedly threw three grenades at the rebels, but one of the grenades hit a cement wall and bounced back, injuring Col. Gadhafi and leading to his capture.

“As soon as the militia fighters had custody of Gaddafi, they began abusing him. Blood was already gushing from the shrapnel wound in his head. As he was being led to the main road, a militiaman stabbed him in his anus with what appears to have been a bayonet, causing another rapidly bleeding wound,” described the report.

Col. Muammar Gadhfai suffers vicious beating before being executed by CIA-sponsored counterrevolutionaries.

Video clips taken of the capture suggest that after enduring abuses Col. Gadhafi was shot by militia fighters.

Report suggests that rebels took “bloody revenge” against Col. Gadhafi and his loyal supporters in light of the eight-month civil war.

An HRW team on the ground counted that 103 pro-Gadhafi supporters died during that escape. Half of those were killed by NATO bombings, and the other half was either killed in combat or executed.

On top of that, 140 Gadhafi loyalists were taken prisoner, but instead of being transferred to prison authorities, 66 of them were executed in a nearby hotel.

A Libyan man visits the wreckage of Muammar Gaddafi’s convoy the morning after his capture and death, Oct 21, 2011. The convoy, containing some 250 people, attempted to flee Sirte before being bombed by NATO and engaging in a fierce final battle with opposition fighters. More than 105 bodies were strewn around the wreckage of the convoy. While the majority of them appeared to have been killed during the NATO strikes and the final battle, some showed signs of having been executed. The bodies of an additional 66 members of the convoy who were detained alive after the final battle were later discovered dead at the nearby Mahari Hotel, most of them apparently victims of summary executions.

Col. Gadhafi’s son Mutassim was also captured alive, according to YouTube videos taken by his captors. However, by the afternoon of the same day, Mutassim was dead with a large new wound in his throat, suggesting he was murdered, HRW concluded.

“The throat wound thus must have been inflicted after the videos of a captured Mutassim were recorded, strongly indicating that he was killed in the custody of his captors just hours after he was detained.”

HRW points out that “these killings apparently comprise the largest documented execution of detainees committed by anti-Gaddafi forces during the eight-month conflict in Libya. The execution of persons in custody is a war crime.”

Libya’s powerless authority

HRW also accuses Libyan transitional government of lack of control and unity for failing to properly investigate and prosecute those responsible for the killings in Sirte, a year after the incident.

Aisha, daughter of Muammar Gadhafi, is calling for the International Criminal Court to investigate executions of her father, hundreds of supporters.

“To some extent, the failure of Libya’s authorities to investigate shows their continuing lack of control over the heavily armed militias, and the urgent need to bring Libya’s numerous militias under the full control of the new authorities.”

UN and International Criminal Court (ICC) have already been calling upon Libya to investigate Col. Gadhafi’s death back in October 2011.

ICC had spoken out that there were strong indications Col. Gadhafi was killed in custody, yet it left things be by letting Libya to investigate on its own.

Libya announced it had created a committee to look into circumstances of death. However, there has not been a proper update into the investigation in just under a year.

Back in January, Col. Gadhafi’s daughter Aisha hired Nick Kaufman, an Israeli lawyer, to convince the International Criminal Court to investigate the full circumstances of her father’s death, arguing that time for a proper probe is running out.

“(The investigation) would involve forensic analysis of the crime scene, ballistic analysis of the crime scene, it would involve taking detailed statements from objective and independent witnesses,” Atty. Kaufman told RT. And with time memories deteriorate, people forget, and evidence goes missing.

Yet Aisha’s efforts failed to yield results.

When HRW contacted Libya government imploring them to take action, local authorities stated that all murders were the result of Col. Gadhafi regime’s “dictatorship” and that rebels were defending themselves. However, they failed to account for those evident executions.

Published on Oct 16, 2012 by HumanRightsWatch

New evidence collected by Human Rights Watch implicates Misrata-based militias in the apparent execution of dozens of detainees following the capture and death of Muammar Gaddafi one year ago. The Libyan authorities have failed to carry out their pledge to investigate the death of dozens held in rebel custody. http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/10/16/libya-new-proof-mass-killings-gaddafi-deat

Related news:

Libya S.O.S. Reports (LibyaSOS)

Libya Report: U.S./NATO backed regime using chemical weapons against civilians (FCN, 10-23-2012)

Neo-colonialism, chaos haunt the new Libya (FCN, 08-24-2012)

Witnessing the Transition to Fear in Tripoli, Libya (FCN, 09-16-2011)

Minister Farrakhan’s Press Conference on U.S., NATO War Against Libya (FCN Video, 06-15-2011)

Gold, Oil, Africa and Why the West Wants Gadhafi Dead (FCN, 06-07-2011)

An Analysis of Muammar al-Gadhafi’s Green Book (FCN, 06-18-2010)


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TOM BARROW CONSIDERS NEW RUN FOR MAYOR

Tom Barrow (l) ran against Dave Bing in the last mayoral election. He is shown here with supporters at Board of Canvassers hearihg. The Canvassers found over 51 % of the vote unrecountable due to massive irregularities.

BE SURE TO REGISTER FOR THE  TOM BARROW EXPLORATORY MEETING

REMINDER OF UPCOMING PLATFORM AND CITY ISSUES MEETING

Sat. November 3, 2012; 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM 

Sacred Heart Church Activities Building

3451 Rivard St Detroit, MI 48207

Add to my calendar

Greetings!

I am following up to remind you of the Tom’s Exploratory Committee meeting coming up soon in about ten days.  Tom intends to discuss the issues and measure potential support.   As he values your input, he would like for you to be there and feel free to bring any friends.

 Tom will be organizing around a host of issues including his potential platform, volunteer support and handing out petitions to gather signatures on election day at your own neighborhood precinct.
I hope you are planning on attending as it will be exciting to be in on the ground floor.  That date again is Saturday, November 3rd at 2PM.  Cake, coffee and water will be served.
Click on the link below to RSVP.
If you have questions or want to RSVP by telephone, just give my office a call at 313.533.8764 and let us know. Meanwhile, I’ll look forward to seeing you on November 3rd..
Best regards, Tony Jackson, Committee Chairman


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DWSD UNIONS PROTEST IMPOSED CUTS AT JUDGE SEAN COX’S OFFICE, OCT. 25, 4:30 PM

AFSCME Local 207 members, supporters from Occupy Detroit protest U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox’s imposed cuts at federal courthouse Oct. 25, 2012.

 


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U.S. SUES BANK OF AMERICA FOR $1B+ ‘BRAZEN’ MORTGAGE FRAUD


Lawsuit says Countrywide removed all controls and issued ‘disastrously bad loans and stuck taxpayers with the bill.’

October 25, 2012

The U.S. government has sued Bank of America for “brazen” mortgage fraud, saying its subsidiary Countrywide cost Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac more than $1 billion.

“The fraudulent conduct alleged in today’s complaint was spectacularly brazen in scope,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “As alleged, through a program aptly named ‘the Hustle,’ Countrywide and Bank of America made disastrously bad loans and stuck taxpayers with the bill.

As described, Countrywide and Bank of America systematically removed every check in favor of its own balance – they cast aside underwriters, eliminated quality controls, incentivized unqualified personnel to cut corners, and concealed the resulting defects. These toxic products were then sold to the government-sponsored enterprises as good loans.

During a nation-wide day of protest against Bank of America May 9, 2012, protesters in Detroit marched from BOA offices to the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to demand that BOA and other banks cancel the city’s debt since they had destroyed Detroit’s neighborhoods through fraudulent practices.

“According to the complaint, the “Hustle” (HSSL, for High-Speed Swim Lane) was a program designed to process loans at high speed, with no regard for whether customers could pay them back. “Brazen” is a good description. To keep questions from being raised, Countrywide removed loan underwriters from the process, putting decisions in the hands of less qualified processors – though processors had previously not been considered knowledgeable enough to answer customer questions.

The suit included seven examples of loans that clearly looked fishy. In one, a borrower in Miami claimed to be an airline sales rep earning $15,500 per month. In fact, the borrower earned $2,666 per month working at a temp agency, The Associated Press reported. That borrower defaulted on the loan in less than a year.

Marchers at Detroit BOA offices May 9 also demanded moratorium on Detroit Public Schools debt.

The result of “the Hustle” was “thousands of fraudulent and otherwise deceptive mortgage loans sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” Subsequent defaults on those loans cost the two government-supported entities more than $1 billion, according to the suit. And, the foreclosed homeowners lost their homes.

Countrywide initiated its “Hustle” program in 2007 after default rates nationwide began rising and Fannie and Freddie tightened requirements for loans they would back. Bank of America bought Countrywide in 2008, and the Hustle program continued through 2009.

This is the first civil fraud suit filed by the Justice Department over loans sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Earlier this month, the U.S. government sued Wells Fargo, accusing the company of lying about mortgages it asked to be insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

In a statement reported by The New York Times, Bank of America spokesman Lawrence Grayson said the bank “has stepped up and acted responsibly to resolve legacy mortgage matters; the claim that we have failed to repurchase loans from Fannie Mae is simply false.” The spokesman added: “At some point, Bank of America can’t be expected to compensate every entity that claims losses that actually were caused by the economic downturn.”

BOA CEO Angelo Mozilo: BANKSTER

Before and since its demise, Countrywide has been accused of being one of the worst players in the mortgage crisis. The Center for Responsible Lending produced a white paper in 2008 titled “Unfair and Unsafe: How Countrywide’s irresponsible practices have harmed borrowers and shareholders.”

Former Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo agreed last year to a record penalty of $67.5 million in a case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC accused Mozilo and other executives of misleading investors as the subprime mortgage business unraveled.

Protest at Bank of America’s national HQ in Charlotte, N.C. May 9, 2012.


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PARAMOUNT HOMEOWNERS TO RALLY AT EVICTION HEARING FRI. OCT. 26, CAYMC

Paramount victims Steve Bynum, Kim Pierce, Dana Hill Photo: Metro Times

From Atty. Bob Day; Paramount Homeowners

Oct. 24, 2012

DETROIT– Homeowners swindled by Paramount Land Holdings in a scheme financed by the Detroit  Police and Fire Pension Board face a court hearing Friday morning, Oct. 26, which could lead to their eviction. The Paramount homeowners and their supporters will appear in court in front of Judge John Gillis to counter the Police and Fire Pension Board’s claim that they “may not exist at all,” and to testify to the fraudulent practices funded by the Pension  Board.

Paramount home Photo: Metro Times

 

In 2009, the Detroit Police and Fire Pension Board loaned $10 million to Paramount Land Holdings of South Carolina to buy foreclosed homes for as little as $10 and sell them by land contract to area residents for tens of thousands of dollars.  Paramount claimed to have paid all back taxes.

It was a swindle from the start. Paramount never recorded its interest in the properties and taxes were never paid.  Paramount took down-payments and monthly charges from buyers, but the land contracts did not include legal descriptions of the properties, so buyers could not record their land contracts.  Paramount did nothing to repair the homes, so buyers had to pay to make the homes habitable.

Paramount Landholdings co-owner George Kastenes after arrest in Florida.

 

The whole scheme began to collapse when the Wayne County Treasurer began tax foreclosure proceedings against the homeowners for the back-taxes Paramount had not paid.  The Pension Board finally sued Paramount, which is now bankrupt. One of the Paramount principals committed suicide and the other [George Kastenes] has been arrested in Florida.

Paramount homeowners have been organizing and opposing the tax foreclosures and evictions.  The Wayne County Treasurer agreed to a temporary stay on foreclosure proceedings, but the Pension Board insists that homeowners should continue to pay under the illegal land contracts and is threatening to evict those who refuse. At this Friday’s hearing, the Pension Board will seek exclusive title to these homes, punishing the victims of Paramount’s fraudulent practices.

The Pension Board made a deal with crooks who profited from the foreclosure crisis.  Paramount home owners are fighting back with assistance from the United Community Housing Coalition and Legal Aid and Defender, demanding that the Pension Board negotiate a settlement that will transfer legal title to the buyers who are living in the homes, improving the  properties, and helping to stabilize Detroit’s neighborhoods.

Attorney Bob Day

Comments by Bob Day, from earlier VOD article on rally vs. banks, June 12, 2011:

“Bob Day said that not only have the banks robbed people nationwide by foreclosing on them, they are coming back for a second round. Companies like Paramount Land Holdings, Inc., the Rice-Peters Financial Corporation, Destiny Ventures and others are buying thousands of foreclosed Detroit homes in bundled packages for $1 each from Deutsche Bank, Bank of America, and others who evicted the original owners.

Those banks already made huge profits because the full sums of their mortgages were guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in addition to money they got from insurance against vandalism, and the trillions in bail-out tax dollars from the U.S. government.

“The developers are putting up signs saying ‘Buy, don’t rent,’ and even going to churches to recruit unaware victims to buy the homes on land contract.” Day said.

“One of my clients bought a $1 home for $45,000, put $750 down, and made her monthly payments,” he explained. “But when her furnace went out and she tried to get state aid to fix it, she did not show up as the owner of record because Paramount had not put the legal description of her property in the land contract, so she couldn’t register it. Then she got a notice of property tax foreclosure because Paramount hadn’t paid taxes on the home. Another client got hit with an outstanding $13,000 water bill.”

Day advocated mobilizing the people in the thousands to seize homes foreclosed by the banks as well as by city and county governments. He said they should be given to those who need them to fix them up and put them back on the property tax rolls, to rebuild the city.”

For more information, contact Bob Day, Legal Aid and Defender Association, 313-971-8170 Paramount Homeowners: Dana Hill, 313-412-4478; Steve Bynum 313-915-8604; Deon Coleman, 313-626-8010

Related articles:

http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/06/16/make-the-banks-pay-to-rebuild-detroit-and-u-s-2/

http://www.legalnews.com/detroit/1001518

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2012/04/11/Businessman-My-partner-bribed-mayors-dad/UPI-60731334187903/

http://www.freep.com/article/20120524/NEWS01/205240582/Man-accused-of-fleecing-Detroit-pension-fund-arrested-in-Florida

http://metrotimes.com/news/skuzzy-stuff-1.1344674


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WASHINGTON RUMORS

The White House

 Commentary by Greg Thrasher, VOD Washington Bureau

Greg Thrasher

October 24, 2012

Now that the theatre of the presidential debates is behind us here in the nation’s capital, there is an eerie sense outside the beltway that Obama is a one-term president. The DC region, unlike many regions in the nation, has not suffered from the destructive aspects of the recession. In this region over 30% of the entire expenditures of the federal budget are spent here.

Medicare for seniors would be threatened under a Romney administration.

Locals and business interests including the defense industry do not want a Romney/Ryan administration which seeks to reduce the fiscal spending of the federal government. The specter of a Romney presidency is a financial nightmare for the fortunes of Black government workers not to mention seniors and others who depend on Medicare and the entitlement programs.

In America, a place where the original “illegal aliens” and domestic “terrorists” were the pilgrims and puritans, the experiment of having a Black man in the White House in the eyes of the vested interests is over. The devastation of a Romney presidential tenure for the white blue collar class and parts of the middle class is not enough. This voting bloc will still vote against their interests where race matters.

Despite the fact that Obama’s presidency as a person of color was history-making, and proof that a majority-white nation like America could be led and governed by a non-white, it had a short shelf life. White America simply can no longer stomach Obama calling the shots.

The post narrative now is that we have given “negroes” and “colored folks” a chance and that is all they get. Never mind of course that the tenure of Obama was full of global crisis events, from two wars overseas, to a collapse of our financial system, to those patriots who practiced treason against our president by claiming he was not even an American.

In the vision of many whites including white progressives and white liberals Obama did not deliver as promised. In America a Black person has a short lease on anything from a job toownership of a business. The mantra has always been calibrated in the metrics of race. Black folks, even the president, do not get the benefit of doubt nor the chance of a long term commitment.

Protester at rally against poverty.

Here in the bubble of DC the realities of the rest of the world are irrelevant. What matters here in DC is not the everyday issues which confront people in the streets and factories of America. What matters is  how one postures for the media and chatter class. For Black Americans, we are on the edge of survival and this truth does not matter to those in the ruling class. In all of the debates between Obama and Romney there was not one utterance or discussion about the plight of Black Americans.

The debates lacked any serious interests in topics about urban development, or the plight of the health of our nation’s poor. Instead of a candid discussion about the poor and the lower class, we got endless rants about the middle class and how this bandwidth of Americans is more important than any other segment of America.

This election has revealed yet again how the ruling class both the Democrats and Republicans are truly not interested in the plight of the poor. Both Obama and Romney are not conduits of the poor and those under siege in our streets. Yet we must select one of them to be our president. Despite all of the blind spots and shortcomings of Obama it is clear and beyond doubt he is the best option for the future of America. We cannot go where Romney wants to take the country. Going backward and in reverse is never the right way.

Contact Greg Thrasher at greg_thrasher@msn.com.


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ANGELA DAVIS IN DETROIT WED. OCT. 24, 2012 7-9 PM

ANGELA DAVIS SPEAKING AT OCCUPY PHILLY OCTOBER, 2011


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