Unbelievable: One Chicago Cop Accused of Framing 51 People for Murder

from April 8, 2017 at 05:02PM http://bit.ly/2oIKCfD

Photo Credit: sakhorn / Shutterstock.com

Horrific acts of Chicago Police Department brutality, from killings to racial profiling to harassment of youth, do not spring from a few bad apples alone. Mounting evidence from city residents, grassroots organizations like We Charge Genocide and even the Department of Justice shows that the problem is system-wide, extending from streets to courts to jail cells and condoned by the chain of command, all the way up to the mayor’s office. However, focusing on the bad behavior of individual cops, and examining how the system responds, can be instructive.

That’s what journalist Melissa Segura does in her deep-dive investigation for Buzzfeed News with the story of Chicago detective Reynaldo Guevara, who is accused of framing dozens of people for murder and harming many more.

“Here’s the easy story of Guevara,” writes Segura. “It’s the tale of one allegedly rogue cop accused by at least 51 people of framing them for murders from the 1980s through the early 2000s in the rough-and-tumble Humboldt Park section of Chicago. His alleged misdeeds led 48 men and one woman to be sentenced to a total of more than 2,300 years in prison. Three were acquitted. Five received life sentences. Three were sentenced to death but spared when in 2003 Gov. George Ryan, disturbed by a rash of wrongful convictions, commuted all death sentences to life or less. Two men died behind bars, including Daniel Peña, an illiterate man who testified Guevara beat him into signing a confession he couldn’t read.”

Segura notes that “the scope of Guevara’s alleged misdeeds tells only part of the story. Chicago’s police brass, its prosecutors, its judges, police oversight commissions, and even federal authorities had ample warnings about Guevara, numerous chances to make amends for the injustices he stands accused of committing and to stop him from perpetrating more. They didn’t.”

In fact, according to Segura’s reporting, Guevara had the full-throated backing of the police department, which handed him promotions and a cozy retirement. Prosecutors also stood behind him, as they “built cases around the people he said were eyewitnesses despite unlikely scenarios in their accounts.”

But the misdeeds do not stop there. Judges “turned a deaf ear to people who swore in open court that Guevara had beaten them or coerced their confessions or testimony,” writes Segura. “So did high-ranking city, county and federal officials, who for decades ignored mounting claims of misconduct, choosing instead to defend the honor of the law enforcement establishment.”

Four years ago, “the city ordered an independent review of Guevara cases, and in 2015, determined that four imprisoned men were more than likely innocent,” Segura notes. “Anita Alvarez, the state attorney for Cook County, whose office had the power to release the men from prison, initially declined to act on those findings.”

Alvarez was thrown out of office last March by a powerful grassroots campaign, led by directly impacted organizations like Assata’s Daughters. Yet her successor, Kim Foxx, appears to be dragging her heels on releasing those who were locked up by Guevera. According to Segura, Foxx’s spokesperson “told Buzzfeed News it had launched its own review of Guevara’s cases. She declined to answer questions, instead issuing a statement that said because the review is ongoing, ‘it would be inappropriate for the office to provide any comments at this time.’”

Chicago is no stranger to police scandals and coverups. In 2015, the city was forced to agree to a historic reparations deal for more than 100 black men who were forced to endure torture from 1972 to 1991. Overseen by commander Jon Burge, the atrocities were covered up for years and only forced into the public purview by a large grassroots movement, including We Charge Genocide.

Most CPD atrocities never see sunlight. According to the Department of Justice probe released in January, the CPD has a “culture in which officers expect to use force and not be questioned about the need for or propriety of that use.” The probe documents numerous instances in which internal investigators “directly sought to influence officers’ statements—in the officer’s favor—by asking unnecessary leading questions during investigative interviews.” Of the 980 complaints of racial or ethnic discrimination filed against the CPD, only 1.3 percent were sustained. Investigators found 354 complaints for the use of the word “n****r” or its variations, and only 1.1 percent of these complaints were sustained.

The CPD’s reputation for violence has long been known to city residents. In 2014, We Charge Genocide testified to the United Nations Committee Against Torture that the CPD’s culture of impunity has led to large-scale human rights violations. “Young people of color in communities across Chicago are consistently profiled, targeted, harassed, and subjected to excessive force by the (predominantly white) CPD,” the report states, “leaving far too many physically injured, killed, and emotionally scarred.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Read more at: Alternet http://bit.ly/1nDoAlo

Paul Manafort’s exit strategy: Trump’s campaign chairman set up shell company to get loans from Trump-tied businesses

from April 12, 2017 at 09:57PM http://bit.ly/2pkggxy

In the aftermath of reports that Paul Manafort, the former campaign manager to President Donald Trump, received payments that can be traced back to an infamous Ukrainian “black ledger,” it also emerged on Wednesday that Manafort will register with the Department of Justice as a foreign agent.

Manafort created a shell company that eventually received $13 million in loans from Trump-connected businesses, according to a report by The New York Times. Manafort’s maneuvers came on the same day he resigned as Trump’s campaign manager due to reports about his connections to the Russian-connected former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. One of those loans was for $3.5 million and came from a business, Spruce Capital, that has connections to Ukraine through billionaire Alexander Rovt. These were part of $20 million in total loans given to properties owned by Manafort and his wife, the purpose of which is not entirely clear.

While aspects of Manafort’s finances are currently under investigation, there is no indication that these loans are part of those inquiries. That said, Manafort was able to purchase real estate in a number of states (including California, Florida, New York and Virginia) with money of uncertain origin, and because Manafort failed to register as a foreign lobbyist after initially working in Ukraine, his compensation from working there has not been disclosed. Some Ukrainian anti-corruption officials claim that $12.7 million in “off the books” cash payments were earmarked specifically for him in Yanukovych’s so-called “black ledger.”

In a statement released on Wednesday, Manafort’s representative said he “has always denied that he ever received any cash payments for his work and has consistently maintained that he received all of his payments, for services rendered, through wire transfers conducted through the international banking system.”

Read more at: Salon.com http://www.salon.com

Trump wants to relax Border Patrol requirements to deport more people

from April 13, 2017 at 01:22AM http://bit.ly/2pkhIQR

Agents Patrol Texas Border To Stop Illegal Immigrants From Entering U.S.

(Credit: Getty/Scott Olson)

President Donald Trump is working on making his national deportation task force — which he repeatedly promised during the 2016 presidential election — into a reality.

Even though Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s beefed up tactics have already incurred considerable controversy, Trump administration intends to double down. An internal assessment by the Department of Homeland Security includes proposals for fast-tracking the hiring of hundreds of new Customs and Border Patrol officers – which could mean an end to polygraph and physical fitness tests in certain cases.

According to a report by The Washington Post, the administration is taking a serious look at where border wall construction could start, and has identified 33,000 new detention beds for undocumented immigrants,

Although the Trump administration has in the past insisted that they are focusing on people with criminal records, an analysis by USA Today in February found that out of 678 people rounded up in 12 states over a week-long period, only 74 percent had been convicted of a crime. That was a 16 percentage point drop from the those with criminal records who were detained in 2016 under the administration of President Barack Obama.

As the Post pointed out, it will be difficult for the Trump administration to get Congress to approve of the massive spending hikes that will be necessary to meet its deportation task force goals. These goals include hiring 10,000 agents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and 5,000 agents to Customs and Border Protection, even though hiring just 500 agents would cost $100 million. Combined with the humanitarian concerns involved in mass deportation, the internal document (which the Trump administration is already saying is pre-decisional) will face considerable obstacles prior to being fully implemented.

Read more at: Salon.com http://www.salon.com

WATCH: Republican congressman tells his constituents that because he’s rich, he doesn’t work for them

from April 13, 2017 at 05:30AM http://bit.ly/2pkvFye

Six years ago, Republican Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana — now deputy assistant secretary for health technology for President Donald Trump — complained that after taxes he only had “maybe $400,000 left over.” Now fellow Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma is demonstrating the same level of class-related cluelessness.

During a town hall event that was captured on video and shared via social media on Monday, Mullin became defensive when a constituent pointed out that taxpaying citizens pay his salary.

“Bull crap, I paid for myself,” the Republican congressman pushed back against his own constituent. “I paid enough taxes before I ever got here and continue to through my company to pay my own salary. This is a service. No one here pays me to do it. I do it as an honor and a service.”

With his self-pitying argument, Mullin suggested that a higher tax burden represents some kind of economic injustice. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t).

When one attendee demanded that Mullin give up the six-figure salary that he currently makes, Mullin reiterated that “I have before, I’ve actually paid it back.”

Mullin even reiterated this argument at another town hall meeting, with video shared by social media on Tuesday.

After a constituent asked him who pays his salary, he replied, “Me, I have self-employed. And I’ve been self-employed, and I’ve paid more taxes inside my own company and personally than I’ll ever receive from being in Congress. I pay own, and I pay my own insurance.”

Mullin’s comments aren’t just elitist; they may also reveal that he is unethical.

In 2014 he got in trouble with the Office of Congressional Ethics for personally advertising and serving as an officer or board member for his companies, according to a report by The Washington Post. Although the office decided to not further investigate the matter, it also made clear that Mullin would violate ethics rules if he earned outside income in excess of $26,955 or sat on a company board.

Read more at: Salon.com http://www.salon.com

The Trump administration is quietly rolling back Obama-era gun regulations

from April 14, 2017 at 12:22AM http://bit.ly/2pgunaj

Giuliani, Trump, Santorum And Scott Address Citadel Republican Society

(Credit: Getty/Richard Ellis)

In his quest to undo everything his predecessor accomplished, President Donald Trump has quietly been able to deliver wins for the NRA and gun control opponents. The Trump administration has rolled back key gun regulation that have broadened the number of people who can purchase a gun.

One signature move by Trump was signing a bill that nixed an Obama-era regulation that required the Social Security Administration to disclose information quarterly to the national gun background check system about people with certain mental illnesses. Trump has also narrowed the definition of “fugitive” in that background check system, which has cut the number of people who are barred from buying a firearm, McClatchy’s Anita Kumar reported.

“Ultimately you judge a politician on whether he or she keeps their promises that they made during the campaign,” Chris Cox, chief lobbyist and principal political strategist for NRA’s lobbying arm, told McClatchy. “NRA members and supporters across this country are very pleased with what we’ve seen out of this administration so far. But there is still a lot of work to do.”

Trump, inspired by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, has a strong desire to weaken the administrative state, even if that means eliminating common-sense gun control regulation that is designed to protect lawful citizens. The NRA was an adamant backer of Trump during the campaign, committing money and TV ads to help bolster his presidential bid. But the way many White House officials speak, it seems as if wholesale deregulation has been the ultimate goal of this administration, and gun regulations are just one of the many targets.

Marc Short, director of legislative affairs for the White House, said that Trump inherited “the biggest regulatory burden, we believe, of any president in American history.”

Read more at: Salon.com http://www.salon.com

Justice Department Drops Suit Against North Carolina Anti-Transgender Law

from April 14, 2017 at 12:10AM http://bit.ly/2ogi6Oy

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Trump administration is dropping a lawsuit against North Carolina after the state moved to undo its “bathroom bill.”

Justice Department lawyers filed a motion Friday to dismiss their federal lawsuit. The move doesn’t directly affect separate pending litigation by LGBT rights advocates who say the new North Carolina law doesn’t go far enough to ensure rights for all.

North Carolina’s compromise deal last month got rid of the most well-known provision of House Bill 2 that required transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings. But the replacement law prohibits local governments from enacting new nondiscrimination ordinances until 2020.

The ACLU has said it’s planning to continue its legal fight for LGBT rights despite the new legislation.


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Texas Getting First New Immigrant Detention Center Built Under Trump

from April 14, 2017 at 01:04AM http://bit.ly/2nNBLd1

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A private prison company announced Thursday it has won a $110-million federal contract to build in Texas the first new immigrant detention center under the Trump administration.

The GEO Group said that its 1,000-bed detention facility will be in Conroe, north of Houston, and will open by the end of next year. The facility coincides with President Donald Trump’s promised expansion of immigration detention, part of a larger crackdown on immigrants in the country illegally that includes detaining people seeking asylum while they go through immigration proceedings.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement already has a record of more than 41,000 detainees.

The agency has also identified an additional 21,000 unused beds that it plans to use for detention, according to a memo reported Wednesday by the Washington Post. That memo notes that “ICE will be unable to secure additional detention capacity until funding has been identified.”

GEO, ICE’s second-largest private prison contractor, has approximately 3,000 empty beds nationwide, according to a February investor call.

Faced with a lack of funds and potentially thousands of empty beds, ICE’s move to secure a new contract with GEO surprised immigrant rights advocates.

“This is totally unprecedented,” said Silky Shaw, Co-Director of Detention Watch Network, a Washington-based non-profit fighting to end immigrant detention. “Even the most recent expansion we’ve seen has been county jails and repurposing facilities that have been shuttered.”

Trump has instructed ICE to detain all individuals suspected of violating immigration laws.

“Aliens who illegally enter the United States without inspection or admission present a significant threat to national security and public safety,” the president said in a Jan. 25 executive order asking ICE to “allocate all legally available resources to immediately construct, operate, control, or establish contracts to construct, operate, or control facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico.”

Still, Carl Takei, Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said the contract was a “sign that the Trump administration’s plans are a huge boondoggle for the private prison industry,” which already operates about 75 percent of immigrant detention facilities.

Takei said the new facility’s location was also striking, given that GEO already operates the 1,517-bed Joe Corley immigrant detention center in the same small town.

“Frankly this surprises me … This raises the question both of how much ICE is actually planning to expand its already enormous detention system and where they’re going to get the money for all this,” Takei said. “ICE has a pretty limited amount of money and they can’t fund expanding detention in 2017 unless Congress passes supplemental appropriations.”

GEO referred all questions to ICE, which did not return requests for comment.


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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GOP-Nominated Top Elections Official: Voter Fraud Is ‘Not Widespread’

from April 14, 2017 at 02:47AM http://bit.ly/2pknwcX

The Republican-nominated chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, an independent, bipartisan agency, said that voter fraud is “not widespread” and “not an epidemic” while simultaneously playing down concerns about voter suppression.

“The reality—and this data and information comes from those who directly run elections—is that the state and local election officials, and specifically the secretaries of state across the country that looked into it, find that fraud happens,” Matthew Masterson said in an interview with the Center for Public Integrity posted Thursday.

“It’s not widespread. It’s not an epidemic,” he continued. “But where it happens, it needs to be identified and prosecuted.”

His comments come after President Donald Trump claimed without evidence that millions of people voted illegally in the presidential election. The allegation prompted fear among voting rights advocates who worry unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud will be used as cover to pass restrictive voting measures that make it harder for certain populations, particularly minorities and low-income people, to vote.

Masterson (pictured above on the right), who was named the chairman of the commission in February, was appointed to the commission in 2014 by President Obama on the recommendation of then-House Speaker John Boehner. Prior to that, Masterson worked in the Ohio Secretary of State’s office; his boss there, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, was the target of multiple lawsuits that claimed Ohio sought to disenfranchise voters by cutting early voting, purging the voting rolls and imposing strict rules on provisional ballots.

The Center for Public Integrity asked Masterson if voter suppression was a big issue and whether there was evidence of a major effort to make it harder to vote.

“It’s something election officials hear about all the time. I can tell you my experience in Ohio. When we dug into that. It was virtually non-existent,” Masterson said, later adding: “It is my opinion, in the vast majority of jurisdictions today in America, it is easier to vote today than it has ever been.”





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Jared Kushner Hid Dozens of Meetings With Russians From His Application for Top-Secret Security Clearance

from April 7, 2017 at 05:13PM http://bit.ly/2ow2B6S

Kushner failed to report dozens of contacts with foreign leaders. His lawyer argues Kushner simply forgot.

Jared Kushner, the White House’s key diplomat and business innovator, did not disclose dozens of encounters with foreign leaders when he applied for top-secret security clearance, The New York Times reported on Thursday.

In order for him to gain access to the country’s best-kept secrets, the president’s son-in-law was required to report all contacts he had with foreign government officials over the past seven years. Kushner, however, omitted dozens of meetings, including ones with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., and Sergey Gorkov, the head of Russia’s state-owned Vnesheconombank. The Senate Intelligence Committee informed the White House two weeks ago that it sought to question Kushner about these meetings.

U.S. officials can lose access to intelligence if they fail to disclose foreign contacts, although amending the disclosure forms is often allowed so as to correct any gaps.

Kushner’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, is calling the omissions an error. Gorelick said that Kushner simply submitted the forms prematurely and immediately requested the opportunity to provide additional information.

In a statement through his attorney, Kushner said he was willing to meet with the FBI to assuage any concerns.

“During the presidential campaign and transition period, I served as a point-of-contact for foreign officials trying to reach the president-elect. I had numerous contacts with foreign officials in this capacity,” he said. “I would be happy to provide additional information about these contacts.”

The FBI is currently investigating potential ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. Kislyak and Gorkov, whom Kushner met with in December, are said to be subjects of the probe.

Read more at: Alternet http://bit.ly/1nDoAlo

International Organizations Ask Russia To End Alleged Killings Of Gay Men In Chechnya

from April 13, 2017 at 07:00AM http://bit.ly/2pgvbvN

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