Christina Wilkie – Political Reporter for CNBC.com
Hours after Trump calls US justice system ‘a laughingstock,’ White House denies he ever did.
The White House on Wednesday flatly denied that President Donald Trump had ever called the American criminal justice system “a joke and a laughingstock.”
The denial came just hours after Trump said precisely that during a televised Cabinet meeting.
Reporters were stunned that the press secretary would deny the president’s own words so soon after the president said them.
The White House on Wednesday flatly denied that President Donald Trump had ever called the American criminal justice system “a joke and a laughingstock,” just hours after Trump said precisely that during a televised Cabinet meeting.
“We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now — because what we have right now is a joke, and it’s a laughingstock,” Trump said at the meeting.
The president’s remark followed a terror attack in New York City on Tuesday that killed eight people. The suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, was shot on the scene and quickly taken into custody. Authorities later found items that indicate the attack was inspired by ISIS.
A few hours after Trump’s Cabinet meeting, CNN’s Jim Acosta asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “Why did the president call the U.S. justice system a joke and a laughingstock?”
“That’s not what he said,” Sanders replied. “He said that process has people calling us a joke and a laughingstock.”
Sanders went on to say that the president was frustrated by how long and costly it is to prosecute individuals accused of terror-related crimes under U.S. law.
“Particularly for someone to be a known terrorist, that process should move faster. That’s the point [Trump] is making. That’s the frustration he has,” she said.
To be sure, Trump did express his frustration at the slow pace of the justice system during his Cabinet meeting, saying the nation needed “to come up with a punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now.” But he never said there were “people calling us a joke.”
Wednesday’s press briefing left reporters stunned, as they compared Sanders’ denial with the official transcript of Trump’s remarks in the Cabinet meeting.
CNBC asked the White House to clarify how Sanders could have claimed “that’s not what [the president] said” when that was, in fact, precisely what the president said. The White House did not immediately respond.
Russia Hacking Facebook – Americans are getting our first glimpse of how we got played.
On Wednesday, Congress released some of the 3,000 Facebook ads and Twitter accounts created by Russian operatives to sway American voters. You can explore them in an analysis the Post published here.
These disturbing messages, seen by up to 126 million Americans, raise thorny questions about Silicon Valley’s responsibility for vetting the information it publishes. Beyond Washington, it leaves all of us who use social media to keep up with friends, share photos and follow news wondering: How’d the Russians get to me?
Russia Hacking Facebook – Facebook’s top lawyer told Congress on Wednesday the Russian effort was “fairly rudimentary.” Here’s what he meant: Ever notice a Facebook ad that’s eerily relevant to something you’ve been talking about? Had an ad for a pair of sneakers follow you around the Internet for a week? Or seen an ad that says your friend “liked” it?
That’s the occasionally creepy handiwork of advertising tech, which covertly tracks much of what you do online—and then sells access to you to the highest bidder. We’re just now waking up to the fact that not only traditional marketers and legitimate political campaigns are buying in. It’s also Russian trolls hoping to manipulate you.
You were in Russia’s crosshairs if you liked the Facebook page of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Same goes for people who said they were fans of Martin Luther King, Jr. Russians even targeted people who shared enough stuff about the South that Facebook tagged them being interested in “Dixie.”
There’s no way to tell if you personally saw a Russian post or tweet. I’d certainly like to know, but Facebook so far hasn’t disclosed to individuals if they were exposed to posts from a troll farm called the Internet Research Agency. (Ads paid for by that group made up the bulk of a trove published on Wednesday.)
Facebook lawyer Colin Stretch on Wednesday told Congress the social network had notified Facebook members broadly about the issue, but it would be “much more challenging” to identify and notify specific people.
Russia Hacking Facebook – Facebook’s advertising systems are largely automated, so no human had to check before these ads went online. Often they originated from groups with legitimate-sounding names, such as “Donald Trump America.” Facebook and Twitter have now taken down posts they suspect to have “inauthentic” Russian roots and instituted new review systems. Legislators are threatening new laws that could further rein them in.
Of course, you didn’t have to click on these posts, or believe what they were pitching. But social media tech is particularly good at making messages irresistible. The Russian trolls didn’t have to spend much money on these marketing techniques to have an impact thanks to precision targeting—and free promotion for buzzy content.
The most basic tool they used is called targeted advertising. By watching what you and your friends share and do on—and off—the social network, Facebook slots you into categories. Some are demographic (age, state, gender) and others are based on things you’ve “liked” and the assumptions Facebook draws about your interests. Facebook will actually show you what it thinks of you, if you click here. (It also lets you edit the categories; doing so could make its ad targeting even more effective.)
The Internet Research Agency bought ads targeted to people with diverse criteria, ranging from gay and lesbian groups to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Russia Hacking Facebook – The Russian agents also used an ad technique based on tracking and following certain people around the Web. For example, if you at some point clicked on a troll website masquerading as legitimate, the site’s tech could identify your web browser and allow the trolls to “re-target” ads to you elsewhere around the web. On Facebook, Russian operatives used a tool called Custom Audiences to target people in such ways.
Most effective of all: Russian trolls used celebrities—and our own friends—to get to us. For free. For example, in April of 2016, rapper Nicki Minaj retweeted a message about an upsetting shooting from the twitter handle @Ten_GOP. That account looked like it was the Tennessee Republican Party, but it was actually a Russian troll interested in inflammatory content. Minaj’s post was retweeted and “liked” more than 24,600 times. (For the record, the actual Tennessee Republican Party told The Washington Post that they had contacted Twitter three times about their impersonator problem).
You or your friends might have shared one of these posts on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or beyond, which the industry calls “organic” promotion. These posts reached way more than the 10 million people who saw paid ads. On Facebook alone, they found their way in front of the eyes of 126 million Americans.
New World Order – Are Millennials Giving Up On Democracy
Neil Howe , CONTRIBUTOR
Earlier this month, 31-year-old wunderkind Sebastian Kurz was elected as Austria’s new chancellor. Kurz—who ran on a populist, anti-immigration platform—is just the latest anti-establishment candidate worldwide to benefit from young people’s waning interest in liberal democracy, centrist candidates, and civic process.
Kurz’s victory points to an ongoing global youth insurgency that has boosted parties and candidates at the political extremes. In last year’s Austrian presidential elections, fully 42% of voters under age 30 checked the box for far-right candidate Norbert Hofer, a prelude to Kurz’s victory. In September, Germany’s AfD party got a push from younger voters and became the first far-right party in half a century to earn a spot in parliament. And although Emmanuel Macron scored a big victory for the French moderates earlier this year, he was the third choice among the country’s youngest voters, who preferred (on the first round) either the far-left Marxist Jean-Luc Mélenchon or the far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen.
New World Order – Survey data show that Millennials are moving away from liberal democracy.
Further east, Japan’s Shinzo Abe, China’s Xi Jinping, India’s Narendra Modi, and the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte all promote socially conservative, ethnically majoritarian, and country-first policies—and, in a reversal from earlier post-war decades, the biggest supporters of such leaders are the young, not the old.
Media commentators offer confusing accounts of this global Millennial trend. Sometimes they explain it as a move leftward (while pointing to Bernie Sanders in America or Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K.), and other times as a move rightward (while pointing at northern Europe or Asia). What unifies Millennials globally, however, is less conventional partisanship than a shift away from the liberal and democratic center. What’s more, their goal is unlike that of their own (Boomer and Xer) parents in their youth. They don’t want to trash the system and free the individual. They want to rebuild and strengthen the system so it can protect and care for the individual.
Millennial support for populist and authoritarian candidates conforms to several recent studies showing widespread youth disaffection with the whole idea of democracy. Only about 30% of Americans born in the 1980s think it’s “essential” to live in a democracy. That’s compared to 75% of Americans born in the 1930s. (Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, and Britain reported similar gaps.) In another study of European Millennials, only 32% selected democracy as one of their top five most important social values.
And the share of young people who consider democracy a “bad” or “very bad” way to run the United States is growing, according to the World Values Survey.
New World Order – Millennials are increasingly open to non-democratic forms of government. In 2011, nearly half agreed that it would be a good idea to have “a strong leader” as opposed to “parliament and elections,” compared to less than 30% of Boomers and Silent. Similarly, 81% of Millennials think a military takeover would be justified if the government were failing, up from 57% among older Americans. Millennials are also far more likely than older Americans to view socialism favorably, according to Gallup and Pew Research Center.
To be sure, Millennials have joined older generations in distrusting government: Just 27% of U.S. 18- to 29-year-olds trust government to do what’s right “always/most of the time.” Yet the youth decline has been shallower than that of older generations. Today, in fact, Millennials report higher levels of trust, higher expectations for services, and less anger at the system than older generations. And what really sets Millennials apart is their expectation and optimism that big institutions can be made to work—even if this requires voting in a heavy-handed populist on the left or right.
Why are young people so disillusioned with liberal democracy?
Across Europe, high youth unemployment rates (ranging from 15% to 48%) and dismal economic prospects have convinced many that the system simply isn’t working, and that new blood is needed to upend the establishment. Fringe parties have taken hold most strongly among youth in countries who feel betrayed by the EU. American Millennials, meanwhile, are fed up with a government they see as gridlocked, corrupt, and unable to solve problems.
Rule 609 -rules apply to attacking a witness’s character for truthfulness by evidence of a criminal conviction:
Rule 609 – Cops shoot up a car without provocation and get away with it because the occupants had criminal records.
Latasha’s boyfriend, Michael Knight, was celebrating his 21st birthday that night — he was shot three times and died just after being transported to a local hospital, where his mother was a nurse. Their friend Frisco Blackwood, also 21, was shot eight times and died while still sitting in the driver’s seat. Latasha was left to crawl out of the vehicle, with a bullet lodged in her thigh, wondering why the cops had opened fire.
The cops tailed them into a dead end, pulled their guns, and seconds later the two Miami-Dade officers started shooting. Though the officers would later testify that they thought the car was backing up toward them, none of the 27 shots were fired into the back of the vehicle.
It took seven years for Latasha to get her day in court, years during which her life would derail.
Rule 609 – During her civil trial against the officers in 2014, the officers’ attorneys obsessively focused on her criminal record, which had nothing to do with the facts of the case. The trial became a debate over Latasha’s integrity: Over the course of two weeks, the lawyers referred to Latasha as a convict some 32 times. They even brought up arrests that happened years after the shooting.
“You are going to hear about Latasha Cure, a 29-year-old woman, multiple-time convicted felon who spends her money on marijuana and ecstasy,” assistant county attorney Rachel Walters told the jury. The attorneys went on:
“You spent a pretty significant amount of time in jail over the last several years; isn’t that true?”
“We can agree that you’re a convicted felon, right?” “You were convicted of not just one felony, but you were convicted of several felonies; isn’t that true?” “But you didn’t stop there in terms of violating the law; isn’t that true?”
Not only is this kind of questioning legal, it’s a common strategy in police abuse cases — and some attorneys even say it’s one of the biggest barriers to police accountability.
A VICE News investigation has found that a rarely examined federal rule lets police attorneys effectively smear victims of police violence in civil trials, and further tilts the scales of justice in favor of the police. This rule — known as 609 — is so broad that it can allow attorneys to bring up almost any aspect of a plaintiff’s criminal record at trial, no matter how trivial or how unrelated to the facts of the case.
VICE News interviewed more than 75 lawyers, advocates, and judges, and examined every federal excessive force civil rights lawsuit filed against police in 2009, the year Latasha filed her case. That year, 200 such cases were brought. Many of those cases were dismissed or settled; others didn’t involve 609 evidence or a judge excluded the evidence.
But across the country, 10 cases that allowed evidence of a plaintiff’s criminal history did ultimately go to trial. The evidence included details of minor drug possession, fleeing police, and, in one instance, a traffic violation. In one case, a group of Syracuse, New York, police allegedly beat up a man after he refused to let the officers search his car. In another case, two Chicago officers allegedly shoved a man against a metal fence while he was walking to a local barber shop.
Seven of those 10 cases were decided in favor of police.
The frequency of lawsuits against police officers has only increased since Latasha filed her case, amid an intensifying national debate over policing and race. But conversations with dozens of attorneys, victims, and academics — and a review of hundreds of cases — suggest victims of police abuse with criminal records face long odds to hold police accountable.
Former federal Judge Nancy Gertner, who spent 17 years on the bench in Massachusetts, said Rule 609 can make trials against police officers an “empty ritual.” “Cases against police officers rarely involve perfect plaintiffs, plaintiffs who are altar boys. The law shouldn’t require them to be altar boys.”
Criminal prosecution for police violence is extremely rare. Victims and their families instead must turn to civil courts for justice. But beyond a few multimillion-dollar settlements in high-profile cases, routine police violence rarely leads to favorable outcomes for victims — in part due to the broad influence of Rule 609 in civil courts.
Federal Rule of Evidence 609 applies to all witnesses — in fact, it’s ingrained in how we think about justice. The spirit of the rule dates back to the Common Law era, when people with criminal records were deemed “unworthy of belief.” It wasn’t until 1917 that Americans with convictions were even allowed to take the stand at trial. Congress and the judiciary branch formally codified this practice under Rule 609 in 1975. Now, “crimes of dishonesty” such as perjury and fraud are automatically admitted as evidence and judges have discretion over whether to allow felony convictions up to 10 years old.
Many attorneys who handle police abuse cases have a common refrain: Some jurors simply won’t rule in favor of someone with a criminal conviction in any circumstance. One California attorney said four jurors he interviewed after losing a police shooting case told him they would never award his client compensation because he was a drug dealer. A Chicago lawyer told a similar story: He had represented a man who’d been beaten up by police, but had a past burglary conviction. After the trial, one juror told the attorney that his client “had got what was coming to him.”
Police attorneys see Rule 609 as an important tool to protect their clients from frivolous lawsuits.
“If you start making it so that police officers can be sued for every excessive force case,” said Florida attorney Craig Leen, who has represented officers, “it will lead to the government doing less policing, second-guessing everything the police do.”
But in trials involving police misconduct, an entire case can rest on a victim’s word versus a police officer’s. Before her trial started, Latasha thought her word would count equally.
“I wasn’t trying to pretend I’m a perfect person,” Latasha told me when I met her in the federal prison in downtown Miami earlier this year, where she’s serving a five-year sentence in a separate identity fraud case. But she didn’t think the police attorneys treated her fairly. “It was like an attitude of, ‘I really don’t care what happened to you that night.’”
The jury was allowed to hear in great detail about all four of her convictions, for bank fraud and grand theft. Not so for the officers’ disciplinary records, which the judge refused to allow into evidence — one officer, Ryan Robinson, had a disciplinary file that included two off-duty DUI car crashes in April 2014. In one crash, he injured two girls in a supermarket parking lot.
After a 10-hour jury deliberation, Latasha lost her case 7-1. After the decision was announced, she ran out of the courtroom, went into her car, locked the door, and cried.
On the day after the trial, Robinson got into two separate hit-and-run accidents while driving with a suspended license. He was asked to resign from the Miami-Dade police force the following year.
The Reach of 609
Today, one in twelve American adults has a criminal record; for black men, it’s one in three. Even after they’ve served their sentences, felons are barred from voting in 10 states, are denied housing and often prohibited from collecting food stamps, and are dismissed by law or prejudice from many forms of employment. And they continue to face intense bias in the courts, where they are vulnerable to Rule 609 evidence if they decide to sue for any reason — say, over a work-related injury, as in the case of a 1989 Supreme Court ruling that solidified Rule 609’s place in the justice system, or a police shooting.
The facts of Latasha’s life and the outcome of her case — largely due to the impact Rule 609 — show just how difficult it can be for victims of police violence to get justice.
Latasha grew up in Miami’s north side, where auto repair shops line the two-lane avenues and palm trees tower over the small, ranch-style duplexes that sit behind chain link fences.
Most people she knew in the area had been arrested at least once. She lived just a few blocks away from where her friends lost their lives. Crime in the area is high, and so is police presence.
Latasha’s father was in and out of jail when she was a kid, and her mom wasn’t around much. But everyone remembers Latasha as a bright child — she told me she insisted on going to school even when she was sick. In high school she met a boy and started skipping class, until eventually they both dropped out. She worked for short stints at Pizza Hut and McDonald’s, but says she was hanging out with the wrong crowd. “That’s when I got the tattoos and the piercings,” she said. “I had off-and-on relationships with my family. They weren’t proud of what I was doing.”
Her first conviction came when she was 23. She was pulled over for speeding, and when the officer searched the car, he found a purse with several stolen IDs inside. The judge gave her probation.
The shooting was only eight weeks later.
What Latasha remembers
That night, Nov. 12, 2007, around 10 p.m., she and Michael piled into their friend Frisco’s rented Cadillac SUV to head home. Frisco was complaining that he had to get up early the next day to testify for a friend who had recently been shot. From the back seat, Latasha wondered if they could smoke some pot before they went to sleep.
They were close to Latasha’s house when a police car began to tail them without its siren lights. They panicked, unsure of what to do, and Frisco kept driving. Latsha remembers thinking the worst that would happen was they might get in trouble for hanging out when they were all on probation.
“I would have never in a million years think that the police would have shot, considering they didn’t know who was in the car,” she said.
Five blocks later, both cars stopped at a dead end and two officers got out with their guns drawn, yelling for the friends to show their hands.
There was no way to escape the 27 bullets that came next, but they tried. As the officers started shooting, Latasha crouched down into the small legroom space in the back seat, screaming at Frisco and Michael to do something. Frisco had put the SUV in reverse, but a bullet hit him in the head and his body slumped to the side as the SUV careened backward. Michael opened the passenger door and his body fell out of the car and onto the asphalt. The officers kept shooting at the front windshield as the SUV, still rolling backwards, crashed into their car and came to a stop at a fence across the road.
The whole incident lasted less than a minute. Latasha crawled out the back-seat window and the officers ordered her to lie on the ground and handcuffed her. Michael was dying and Frisco was already dead, their bodies full of bullets. Latasha realized she was bleeding; she’d been shot in the thigh.
What the police said
The officers — both declined to comment for this story — told a different story about that night: They shot at the car in self defense. Ryan Robinson, then 34, was a four-year veteran of the Miami-Dade police department, rode in the passenger seat of the cop car. Michael Mendez, the driver, then 24, was in his second year on the force. They were on robbery patrol that night, which meant they were out looking for suspicious activity. They told investigators they followed the Cadillac SUV for several blocks, and when the driver ran a red light, they chased the vehicle into the dead end.
They thought the driver was fleeing, so they drew their guns as they approached the stopped car. They could see three people inside but not much else. Then the car suddenly jumped backward, hurtling toward them. They thought the driver was trying to run them over by reversing, so they shot in self-defense, they said.
“On November 12, 2007, for these officers, it was either shoot or be killed,” assistant county attorney Walters said in the first line of her opening statement. “Officer Robinson found himself staring down the barrel of a 2-ton weapon, a 2008 Cadillac SRX.”
Throughout the trial, both officers stressed they had no option but to defend themselves by shooting at the car.
“Under that high stress, scared for my life, I fired what I thought was three rounds, four rounds, because it happened so fast,” Mendez explained at the trial. “It wasn’t until I looked at the evidence that it was ten rounds.”
Twenty-four of the 27 bullets the officers fired hit the SUV or the three bodies inside. None entered through the back of the car.
The deck is stacked
The police-department panel that reviews officer-involved shootings exonerated both officers, warranting “no further action,” and the state attorney’s office cleared them of any criminal wrongdoing the following year.
When no criminal charges came, a local pastor suggested Latasha and Michael’s mothers get in touch with a civil rights attorney about pursuing a lawsuit. Latasha told me she hoped her case would “expose the police department.” She remembers thinking, “Something’s going on, something’s really wrong.”
As the only survivor of the shooting, it was Latasha’s word against theirs.
At first, the Miami-Dade officers tried to get Latasha’s lawsuit dismissed on grounds of “qualified immunity.” Courts shield public employees from liability in civil rights lawsuits unless the plaintiff can prove the employee knew they were violating the plaintiff’s rights. Qualified immunity can protect police officers who say they felt threatened and therefore weren’t breaking the law when they shot to kill. It’s the reason most lawsuits against cops go nowhere.
The other big reason cases against cops fail, according to attorneys around the country, is Rule 609.
A Chicago attorney told VICE News that he includes Rule 609 evidence on the intake form he reviews with potential clients because it can be such a big factor in winning a case. Several attorneys said it affects their decision about whether to take a case at all.
Latasha’s attorney, Benedict Kuehne, said he knew Latasha’s grand theft conviction might come up, but he didn’t think her past would outweigh the evidence. A few stolen IDs was nothing compared to 27 shots fired at three unarmed kids who were just trying to get home from a club.
“They had their blemishes, but I made a decision that they were entitled to the same kind of justice as everybody,” Kuehne said.
If a case overcomes qualified immunity — as Latasha’s did — the next step is to try to negotiate a settlement. Police lawyers may use a victim’s criminal history to argue for a low settlement amount, or decline to settle at all, knowing Rule 609 lets them challenge the plaintiff’s credibility in front of a jury.
But it’s trial testimony that offers the best chance for police attorneys to smear the plaintiff using her criminal record. Judges give jurors instructions on how they should interpret Rule 609 evidence, cautioning them to consider it only to assess the witness’s credibility, not whether she deserves to win the case. But that line of thinking is hard for jurors to follow, according to interviews with lawyers, judges, and decades of social science research.
Kuehne and the police lawyers couldn’t reach a settlement, and as Latasha’s case dragged on, she found herself back where she started in North Miami, with few prospects and unshakable guilt about the shooting. She kept wrestling with the question of why she was the one to survive.
“She was an outgoing person, full of energy and fun,” Shameka Albury, one of her closest friends, recalled. “After that, she started being very paranoid. She wasn’t the same happy person. I used to always tell her, ‘It’s going to be OK,’ but she always had it on her mind. She was just so down.”
Latasha eventually moved into a duplex with a friend, and met her current boyfriend. She worked occasionally at his mom’s hair salon cleaning up and helping customers. Things were going well, so in 2013 they decided to have a baby, a girl they named Denbree, and then another daughter, Deliah, later that year.
Then Latasha’s boyfriend got into trouble for driving with a suspended license and he was in and out of jail for several months. Latasha turned to scams she had learned from friends in the neighborhood — using fake IDs and forging checks — to support him and the kids. “It was the only thing I knew how to do,” she said.
By the time her civil rights trial started in 2014, Latasha had three more convictions on her record. The odds against her were growing.
What juries hear
Knowing the potential impact of Rule 609 evidence, Kuehne asked the judge to exclude Latasha’s record from the trial. After all, three of her convictions didn’t come until after the shooting. But because the new convictions were for a false bank check and ID fraud — crimes of dishonesty — they were automatically allowed in for the jury to hear. At the request of the officers’ lawyers, the judge allowed in Latasha’s grand theft conviction, too.
Latasha said Kuehne warned her about how the police attorneys might use her record, but she still found the focus on her past upsetting. One of the police attorneys, Bernard Pastor, even brought up Frisco’s burglary conviction.
As hard as it was for her, Latasha especially resented the fact that Frisco wasn’t there to defend himself. “He went to college, he was a basketball coach, he went to church. He was a good person,” she told me. “But the jury only got to know that about him.”
Kuehne also asked the judge to allow Officer Robinson’s police department disciplinary record into evidence in an effort to balance the Rule 609 evidence against Latasha. Because those disciplinary records weren’t criminal convictions, the judge wouldn’t allow it.
“Courts and the justice system do not equate internal misconduct by police to criminal activity by civilians,” Kuehne told me, clearly frustrated with the imbalance. “Yet if these police were civilians doing the same kind of things, they would be arrested.”
Pastor, the police officers’ attorney, wouldn’t say whether he believes any of the evidence he used against Latasha went too far. “The rules are the rules,” he told me. “Congress and the people who have made the rules have found that someone’s ability to tell the truth is determined by prior convictions.”
“They had their minds made up”
In a way, Pastor is right. The impact of Rule 609 is not inevitable; it’s a policy choice.
States unhappy with the federal standard have changed their own guidelines about criminal history evidence to limit its influence — Montana doesn’t allow it at all. Some bias-conscious judges choose to exclude irrelevant bits of a plaintiff’s criminal history — or try to lessen the bias that Rule 609 evidence creates. Gertner, the former federal judge, let attorneys ask witnesses only one yes-or-no question about prior convictions. Latasha was asked about her record 50 times.
The immediate impact of 609, however, is up to jurors. And because felons are barred from serving on juries, plaintiffs with felonies on their records won’t be heard by a jury of their peers.
One juror in Latasha’s trial, who asked me not to use her name because she did not want to seem racist, told me that she did not find Latasha credible. Another said she didn’t remember the evidence about Latasha’s criminal convictions at all.
A third juror, Mark Latimore, 47, still often reflects on the trial. He was the only juror who believed the officers used excessive force. “They had their minds made up,” he said about the other jurors. “They thought the plaintiffs in the case were lowlifes. They didn’t have any interest in seeing them as human beings.”
Federal jury verdicts must be unanimous, but Latimore refused to budge. After 10 hours of deliberating, the judge asked whether the lawyers would accept a super-majority verdict rather than call it a hung jury. Both sides agreed and the jury foreperson announced the 7-1 decision: The officers acted reasonably when they shot 27 bullets at the SUV, killing Michael and Frisco and injuring Latasha.
Losing the trial was retraumatizing for Latasha. “The wound was already closed and it just reopened. It was worse than being shot because I really got to see things for what they really are,” she said. “I wasn’t a good candidate for a lawsuit against police officers.”
This is the dynamic Rule 609 reinforces: The people most likely to encounter police violence live in poor and minority communities that see the most policing. For the same reasons, those are the people most likely to have criminal records. And those convictions can all but guarantee that these people won’t get a fair shot at justice.
Maria Cure, Latasha’s aunt, said pursuing the civil rights case for nearly a decade only to lose at trial took away Latasha’s self-esteem. “She feels like she was cheated,” she said. “They took a lot from her and out of her.” Latasha was convicted again of identity fraud last year and has three and a half more years of her sentence to serve. Her daughters, now 3 and 4, live with their father.
Robinson continued to get in trouble with the department, including the two DUIs the day after the trial ended, and he resigned the following year. Mendez became a detective in the homicide unit in 2015. The department has since revised its use of force policy to explicitly ban shooting at moving vehicles, in line with national trends.
Kuehne appealed the verdict, but in a decision this past May the appeals court said the trial judge appropriately applied Rule 609, even as it called the shooting a “tragic case.”
Latasha said the ruling came as no surprise. “I told Kuehne to just give it up,” she said. “I’ve made mistakes and that’s the only thing that’s going to be focused on, not the fact that I got shot and two people were murdered. If they feel like you’re a lowlife person who doesn’t fit the bill, then the officers can do whatever they want to do to you. It’s a very clear message.”
Taylor Dolven is a reporter for VICE News.
Alexa Liautaud and Morgan Conley contributed research.
Surrogate mother – Jessica Allen was already the mother of two boys when she decided to become a surrogate.
The pay she would receive to carry another woman’s child to term — $30,000 — would allow Allen to become a stay-at-home mom, as well as save for a new house. It would also be her “chance to give a family the blessing of a child,” her partner, Wardell Jasper, told her, according to the New York Post, which first reported the story.
So Allen signed up to become a surrogate with the San Diego-based Omega Family Global, which matched her with a Chinese couple identified in the article only as the “Lius,” a pseudonym. In April 2016, after in vitro fertilization treatments, Allen became pregnant with the couple’s baby.
Six weeks later, the first of many surprises in her surrogacy would crop up: A second baby had appeared in her scans.
Surrogate mother “I was a bit scared, but I heard the Lius were thrilled to be having twins,” Allen, 31, told the newspaper. “My $30,000 payment, including expenses — which I received in installments by check each month — was increased by $5,000 for the second child. Not once during the pregnancy did any of the medical staff provided by the agency say that the babies were in separate sacs. As far as we were concerned, the transferred embryo had split in two and the twins were identical.”
Last December, Allen gave birth to both babies by C-section at a hospital in Riverside, Calif. She claimed she was not allowed to see the newborns or spend an hour with them, as her contract with Omega Family Global had outlined — leaving her heartbroken days after the delivery. She had only briefly seen a cellphone picture of the babies and remarked that they looked different.
Only later would she realize how accurate her observation had been.
On Jan. 10, nearly a month after the babies were born, Allen said she received a message from “Mrs. Liu” with another picture of the twins.
“They are not the same, right?” the message read, according to the New York Post. “Have you thought about why they are different?”
[Smuggled to the U.S. to be a surrogate, one woman claims she was abused and used for her womb]
A DNA test would soon reveal the truth: One of the “twins” was actually Allen and Jasper’s biological son. Despite using condoms, they had apparently conceived the child after becoming pregnant with the Lius’ baby, in what is believed to be an extremely rare case of superfetation.
The condition — in which an already pregnant woman conceives another child — is so rare that alleged cases are usually treated with skepticism.
In a widely publicized 2009 case of a pregnant Arkansas woman becoming pregnant “again,” Karen Boyle, a reproductive medicine specialist, told ABC News there were only about 10 reported cases of superfetation in medical literature.
Surrogate mother “I was heartbroken knowing I carried a baby I didn’t know was mine and that he was taken from me without my knowledge and was in the arms of other people where he did not belong,” Allen told the Independent.
She and Jasper became focused on getting their son back, Allen added.
What followed was a lengthy, expensive legal battle. The San Diego agency reportedly told Allen that the Lius had relinquished the baby who was not their biological match — and also wanted up to $22,000 in “compensation.” Allen told the New York Post they couldn’t afford that and were shocked when the agency put up other barriers to reuniting with their son:
To my disgust, a caseworker from the agency lined up parents to adopt him and “absorb” the money we owed the Lius. Or, if that didn’t work out, the Lius were thinking of putting Max up for adoption, as they were still his legal parents.
I told the agency in no uncertain terms, “We want our son,” but we would still be responsible for the bill if we kept him. It was like Max was a commodity and we were paying to adopt our own flesh and blood. A caseworker from the agency also said we owed her a further $7,000 for expenses she had incurred for the bureaucracy and for looking after our son.
We spent $3,000 on an attorney, and there was a lot of strained negotiation between us, our lawyer and Omega. It was an uphill battle, but the agency finally reduced the “fee” we owed the Lius to zero.
[With new surrogacy law, D.C. joins jurisdictions that are making it easier for gay and infertile couples to start families]
Despite the monetary dispute being resolved, Omega Family Global, in a statement to the New York Post, disputed Allen’s claims. The full letter from a lawyer for the agency is here.
Surrogate mother In the United States, commercial surrogacy — carrying another woman’s baby with monetary compensation beyond medical expenses — is legal only in a few states, including California, where Allen lives. The practice comes with a slew of ethical and legal questions, including what rights the surrogate mother and the child have, particularly when the surrogacy takes place in another country.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes statistics on assisted reproductive technology, which includes “donor embryo services” and “gestational carrier services,” the federal agency’s data does not break out exactly how many of those births were by surrogacy. About 1.6 percent of all infants born in the United States each year are conceived using assisted reproductive technology, a figure that has doubled over the past decade, according to the CDC.
For Allen, her surrogacy was a “nightmare” that ultimately had a happy ending. She told the New York Post her family was reunited with her son on Feb. 5, in the parking lot of a Starbucks in Riverside County. She and Jasper renamed their newest family member Malachi, and he is now 10 months old.
Surrogate mother “The moment was incredibly emotional, and I started hugging and kissing my boy,” Allen told the newspaper. “Wardell and I, who got married in April, weren’t planning to expand our family so soon, but we treasure Malachi with all our hearts. I don’t regret becoming a surrogate mom because that would mean regretting my son. I just hope other women considering surrogacy can learn from my story. And that a greater good will come out of this nightmare.”
Fox News – The U.S. Air Force is preparing to place its fleet of nuclear-armed B-52 bombers on 24-hour alert for the first time since 1991 amid escalating tensions with North Korea, the military branch’s chief of staff said in a report Sunday.
Defense officials denied to Fox News that bombers were ordered to go on 24-hour alert, but Gen. David Goldfein told Defense One it could happen.
“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Goldfein said. “I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”
REPORT: TRUMP SET TO SEND B-52 NUCLEAR BOMBERS TO SOUTH KOREA, U.S. WARNS NORTH OF ‘OVERWHELMING’ RESPONSE
Goldfein noted that in a world where “we’ve got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons,” it’s important to remain alert and think of new ways to be prepared.
Gen. Goldfein said that by prepping its fleet of B-52 bombers to remain on 24-hour alert, the Air Force is preparing “for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in.” (U.S. Air Force)
“It’s no longer a bipolar world where it’s just us and the Soviet Union. We’ve got other players out there who have nuclear capability. It’s never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right,” Goldfein added.
Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, home of the 2d Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command, which manages the service’s nuclear services, is being renovated, Defense One reported, so that B-52s would be ready to “take off at a moment’s notice.”
The 24-hour alert status for B-52s ended in 1991, in the waning days of the Cold War. (REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji)
The B-52, which can fly up to about 50,000 feet and at supersonic speeds, has the ability to release a variety of weapons, including cluster bombs, gravity bombs and precision guided missiles.
The long-range bomber can also unleash both nuclear and precision-guided conventional ordnance.
The 24-hour alert status for B-52s ended in 1991, in the waning days of the Cold War.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.
(CNN)Washington elites have long regarded war with North Korea as all but unthinkable. Yet, obscured by the wild twists and daily cacophony of the Trump presidency, the conventional wisdom is changing.
While President Donald Trump rattles sabers on Twitter and slams “Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un, there is also a perceptible hardening of tone among senior officials. Military action to halt North Korea’s march to a missile tipped with a nuclear warhead that could hit the US mainland appears to be a growing possibility.
Trump upped the rhetoric another notch in an interview with Fox Business Network broadcast Sunday, in which he said Washington was “so prepared, like you wouldn’t believe” for any contingency with Pyongyang.
“You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be,” Trump said. “Would it be nice not to do that? The answer is yes. Will that happen? Who knows, who knows.”
Trump’s power to shock has been eroded by the extraordinary spectacle of his nine months as President.
Yet it’s still stunning to hear an American President speaking so openly about the possibility of a war, that could, under some scenarios, cause the most devastation of any US conflict, at least since the Vietnam War.
There are no immediate signs that the administration is preparing for military action, for instance through evacuations of US military families in South Korea, or with a buildup of troops or materiel.
Yet it is also possible that the hardening of the administration’s rhetoric and the narrowing window for diplomacy to work represent a significant moment in the evolution of a crisis that could ultimately define the Trump presidency.
The potential humanitarian, military and diplomatic cost of a war with the reclusive dynastic state has long been cited as the reason why it should and would never happen. Warnings about the North’s thousands of rockets and artillery shells that could rain down on Seoul and threaten millions of people, reflect the reality that thriving, democratic South Korea is a nation hostage to its geography, unpredictable Northern brethren, and any decision by its ally the United States to launch a preemptive strike.
Other considerations, including the prospect of a collapse of the North Korean state and a mass refugee crisis, not to mention a dangerous escalation of US-China tensions, have also meant that the prospect of a war with Pyongyang has remained largely a theoretical proposition for half a century.
But Trump sent regional anxiety soaring when he warned the US might rain “fire and fury” on North Korea in August and later said America’s military forces were “locked and loaded.”
On one hand, Washington’s toughened rhetoric can be put down to the raising stakes of the showdown. North Korea’s ballistic missile launches and nuclear test this year mean that Trump will be the President who faces the dilemma that his predecessors have long dreaded — what to do about an unpredictable dictator, with the power to hit the US mainland with a nuclear-tipped, long-range ballistic missile.
‘Well, let’s hope diplomacy works’
There is growing concern, quietly expressed in private conversations in Washington among foreign policy experts, members of Congress, and former national security officials, that war is becoming increasingly possible.
Many well-placed people are beginning to wonder whether there is a way out.
Senior officials, speaking over the last few weeks, have spoken more forthrightly and publicly about the possibility of conflict in ways that are raising questions about the administration’s approach.
Last Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson promised to keep up diplomacy until “the first bomb drops.”
His comments could be interpreted as a willingness to never give up diplomacy, even though Trump told him in a recent tweet that he was “wasting his time.”
Or Tillerson could be seeking to widen his leverage with a credible threat of force: The perception that the US could never use force on the Korean Peninsula clearly erodes the strength of its diplomatic position.
But his comments could also carry a darker interpretation.
Last week, CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned that the US should behave as though North Korea is close to the “final step” of bringing 320 million Americans within reach of a nuclear bomb. In a briefing in October, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly also spoke ominously.
“Right now, we think the threat is manageable, but over time, if it grows beyond where it is today — well, let’s hope diplomacy works,” he said.
RELATED: US preparing for North Korea’s ‘final step’
Former CIA Director John Brennan last week put the risk of US war with North Korea at least at one-in-five.
What about China?
Despite the rising risks, there are few signs of an intense administration diplomatic effort to alleviate the crisis beyond new sanctions passed over the summer against Pyongyang and backed by Russia and China.
The pace will increase next month when Trump visits Asia on a trip that will highlight the deepening North Korea crisis and could lead to more provocations by Pyongyang, including possible new missile tests.
That journey might provide a clue about the administration’s strategy, since talking up the possibility of war would be a logical way to try to hike pressure on China to do more to convince its recalcitrant ally to change its behavior.
In line with the latest sanctions, China has tightened financial screws on North Korea, but it is unclear how far it is willing to go in isolating Pyongyang. Beijing has shown no sign that it has changed its long-held refusal to destabilize the Kim regime or eventually countenance a united Korea that it fears would be a US-allied state on its borders.
Many observers believe Washington overestimates China’s influence on Kim, who has no relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
RELATED: North Korea’s illicit African connections If that view is correct, war talk could lock the United States into a cycle of escalation that takes on its own momentum without changing China’s calculation.
Washington’s Korean War position — that Trump will never accept North Korea having a nuclear weapon that could reach the United States — is entrenched.
Similarly, most experts believe that Kim will never agree to give up a nuclear program that he sees as a guarantee of regime survival against a hostile United States that he has demonized to solidify his tyrannical rule.
There seems little room for compromise, or diplomatic creativity, and the prospect that sanctions could topple Kim’s regime before he can deploy a long-range missile with a nuclear warhead appears dim.
Neither Trump, nor Kim is leaving himself any face-saving off ramps from confrontation.
That’s why the Korean War talk in Washington should be taken seriously.