Monday, March 31, 2008

Texas Prosecutes Little Old Ladies for Voter Fraud

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet, Sunday 31 March 2007
State's Attorney General has prosecuted Democrats who help seniors vote by mail while ignoring documented Republican ballot box stuffing.

Willie Ray was a 69-year-old African-American City Council member from Texarkana who wanted her granddaughter, Jamillah Johnson, to learn about civil rights and voting during the 2004 presidential election. The pair helped homebound seniors citizens get absentee ballots, and once they were filled out, put them in the mail.

Fort Worth's Gloria Meeks, 69, was a church-going, community activist who proudly ran a phone bank and helped homebound elderly people like Parthenia McDonald, 79, to vote by mail. McDonald, whose mailbox was two blocks away from her home (she recently died), called Meeks "an angel" for helping her, a friend of both women said.

And until he recently moved out of state, Walter Hinojosa, a retired school teacher and labor organizer from Austin, was another Democratic Party volunteer who helped elderly and disabled people vote by getting them absentee ballots and mailing them.

Today, Ray and Johnson have criminal records for breaking Texas election law and faced travel restrictions during a six-month probation. Gloria Meeks is in a nursing home after having a stroke, prompted in part, her friends say, by state police who investigated her - including spying on Meeks while she bathed - and then questioned her about helping McDonald and others to vote. Hinojosa, meanwhile, has left Texas.

continued -

Hero for Benton Harbor

Friend of Klock Park Honored
By Jim Dalgleish,
Herald-Palladium City Editor
BENTON HARBOR — It’s a bit disconcerting to get an individual award when you know you’re part of a team.
Such is the feeling of Carol Drake, the winner of a state­wide award for her work to preserve Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor.
“We’ve had so many peo­ple come on board, especially Benton Harbor residents” said the vice president of Friends of Jean Klock Park. “This is not a one-woman show.”
The Michigan Environ­mental Council announced late last week that Drake won its 2008 Petoskey Prize for grassroots environmental leadership. The council in its announce­ment cited Drake’s“deep commitment, tireless efforts and effective work to pre­vent develop­ment of Jean Klock Park’s stunning nat­ural resources.”
Drake said she will pick up her award, a Petoskey stone plaque, at the Council’s An­nual Environmental Celebra­tion on May 28 in Ann Ar­bor.
The council will donate $5,000 to the environmental organization of her choice. Drake said she plans to direct the money to Friends of Jean Klock Park. Although part of
a team, the Sodus Township resident has been the park’s most vocal and public defend­er, speaking at local govern­ment meetings and writing let­ters to The Herald-Palladium editor.
Drake said the award vali­dates her organization’s efforts. Furthermore, the award recog­nizes fellow “friends” such as Armin Schleiffarth of Niles and Julianne Weiss, the daugh­ter of the late Benton Harbor city commissioner Norval Weiss.
Drake said Commissioner Weiss was an ardent Klock Park defender.
In addition, Drake said the award honors LuAnne Kozma of Novi, who is active in De­fense of Place, a national orga­nization to protect parks from development. Defense of Place supports Friends of Jean Klock Park.
The 74-acre park includes a Lake Michigan beach, dunes and wetlands.
Benton Harbor industrialist John Klock bequeathed the land to the city in 1917 in hon­or of his daughter Jean, who died in childhood.The deed mandated that the park remain in public use into perpetuity. However, developers were able to buy the four northern­most acres from the city in 2004 to host upscale housing, still in development.
Harbor Shores Redevelop­ment Inc. wants to lease 22.11 acres in the park for three holes in the planned Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course. The course would be the center­piece of a 530-acre, $430 mil­lion housing and commercial project to revive Benton Har­bor’s far northern side.
Drake and others are work­ing to keep the park intact, ar­guing that Klock’s deed must be honored and the wildlife and habitat should be protected.
James Clift, the Environ­mental Council’s policy direc­tor, said the Alliance for the Great Lakes nominated Drake for the award. The award is named for the Petoskey stone, Michigan’s state stone.

FBI informant organizes white supremacy rally in Kalamazoo

scroll down to article

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Outlaw Sheriff

Letter to Berrien County Sheriff from Rev. Pinkney's attorney:

March 26, 2008

L. Paul Bailey, Sheriff Via telefax only to:
Berrien County Sheriff’s Department
919 Port Street
St. Joseph, MI 49085

Re: Inmate: Reverend Edward Pinkney
People (Berrien County) v. Pinkney
Case No. 2005-401979-FY

Dear Sheriff Bailey:

This letter concerns the “shakedown” of the cell/block
conducted by your officers involving the Reverend
Edward Pinkney’s cell on Friday, March 21, 2008. This
letter is written as a result of two telephone
conferences which I had with Judge Butzbaugh and
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Vigansky on March 25,

At Judge Butzbaugh’s direction, Vigansky apparently
consulted with you regarding the claims that you had
taken or interfered with Reverend Pinkney’s legal
papers during and after the shakedown.

According to Vigansky, you told him that it was a
routine shakedown carried out on an rotating basis of
the various sections of the jail. You indicated to
Vigansky that you found one legal pleading (presumably
sent to Pinkney by his attorneys which had a staple in
it, which was removed for security purposes).

You further indicated that you found certain notes
made by Pinkney during a disqualification hearing
before Judge Wiley and, somehow believing them to be
contraband, threatening, violation of probation or
otherwise significant, seized them and placed them
with Pinkney’s personal belongings. You further
copied them and delivered them to Judge Wiley, who
subsequently forwarded them to Judge Butzbaugh.

According to our information, you also took legal
papers prepared by Kelly Flint, one of Pinkney’s
attorneys and notes which Pinkney keeps at my
direction of conditions in the jail and his treatment
there. All seized papers should be returned. Our
position is that the seizure of the papers was
arguably in violation of the First, Fourth, Fifth and
Sixth Amendments.

Regarding the First Amendment, you may believe, as
others do, that Pinkney was incarcerated for violation
of probation for writing criticisms of the Berrien
County criminal justice system, including your
department. That is not true. Judge Butzbaugh
specifically found on December 20, 2007 that Pinkney’s
writing calling the court racist, corrupt and dumb was
protected by the First Amendment. What remains is
whether or not Pinkney’s specific invocations of
biblical prophecies that God will punish those who
practice injustice was a threat against Judge
Butzbaugh. That issue is pending and unresolved.
Consequently, no matter what writings you find in
Pinkney’s papers, so long as they do nothing more than
express his opinion about the police, courts, judges,
jail, etc., even in terms most offensive to you, they
are protected expression and cannot be the subject of
penalty or confiscation.

Further, under the Fourth Amendment protections
against unreasonable seizures of persons or property,
although constitutional rights are diminished during
incarceration, they are not completely abrogated.
Under the First and Fourth Amendments, you had a right
to look through Pinkney’s papers for contraband, but
not to read them for content. To then seize some of
them as a result of your belief that they contained
improper content was a violation of the Fourth, as
well as the First Amendment.

Next, the Fifth Amendment protects against
self-incrimination. Pinkney is charged with a
probation violation relating to his alleged written
threats against Judge Butzbaugh or others. His
written notes or thoughts during the conduct of court
hearings cannot be used against him as evidence of
some further violation of probation, which implicates
his liberty interest in a criminal (probation
violation) hearing.

Your act of copying the notes and delivering them to
Judge Wiley, who is at present assigned to hear the
probation violation hearing, pending a ruling by Judge
Butzbaugh on the disqualification of Judge Wiley or
the entire Berrien County criminal court bench is
particularly troubling. Pinkney made notes before,
during and after our hearing before Judge Wiley
specifically at the request and direction of counsel
(me). Those communications are privileged and either
reading them or seizing them, invades the Sixth
Amendment attorney-client privilege and right to

For you to copy them and send them to Judge Wiley
smacks of obstruction of justice and improper
unilateral communications with the Court. I am
confident that, if you had consulted with Mr.
Vigansky, he would have informed you that the papers
should be returned to Reverend Pinkney and should
under no circumstances be submitted to the Court
without his permission.

I do not comment on all of the complaints which have
been received regarding your treatment of Reverend
Pinkney since December 14, 2007. I only indicate that
your actions regarding these papers were facially
violative of a number of constitutional rights. You
cannot read, search or seize materials relevant to
Pinkney’s defense to either the main charges against
him or the pending probation violation without
violating his right to free speech and access to the
courts. It also implicates his right to be free from
unreasonable seizures, the prohibition against
self-incrimination and his right to counsel.

I request a response from you, the Prosecutor or
civilian counsel for the County, and urge you to
return the papers and make no further seizures.

Hugh M. Davis

Constitutional Litigation Associates, P.C., 450 W. Fort St., Ste 200, Detroit, MI 48226
phone (313) 961-2255 / fax (313) 961-5999, e-mail:

Saturday, March 22, 2008

TEN Deputies & Sherriff Bailey Raid Pinkney


Last night, Friday March 21, at about 8pm, Berrien county sheriff Paul Bailey and TEN deputies/law enforcement employees raided Rev. Pinkney's cell. They confiscated all of his legal documents, all notes - including names and addresses, the notes on Dep. Hook's actions, and medications for back pain. As of 5pm today, Sat., nothing has been returned, nor have previously confiscated items been returned. (For that matter, his computer has not yet been returned to his wife.) Other inmates have observed that Rev. Pinkney is a target of harassment, and they support him and the truth & justice he stands for.

As the raid was beginning, Dep. Hooks had a cell mate of Rev. P. thrown in the hole simply for being on the phone when they entered.

One day during this past week the inmates were served sour milk. Rev. P. poured his down the toilet, another poured his on the floor.

Sheriff Bailey would like to run for another term.


US Dept. of Justice, 202-514-2000

Friday, March 21, 2008

Recent Hearing & Berrien County Jail Abuse

Judge Butzbaugh heard Rev. Pinkney's motion to disqualify the Berrien County bench on Mon., Mar. 17. The decision Butzbaugh made was to postpone making his decision.... Pinkney has been confined to the hellish county jail since December 14, 2007.

* *

The Concentration Camp conditions in American jails await not only the victims of poverty, but anyone who dares speak out.

Berrien County Jail charges $43 per day for inmates. Rev. Pinkney was recently denied toilet tissue and writing paper. The county jail and phone company made a deal so that inmates are charged at super high rates. Deputy Hooks, a woman with hygiene issues, makes the inmates lives miserable by putting them on lock-down for no apparent reason, taking away TV for many days at a time when inmates had paid for it (no reimbursement). She often gives Rev. P. additional lock-down days. Should a person like this hold a job?

* *

Call often:

Jail (269) 983-7111 x7231
Gov. Granholm (517) 373-3400 (517) 335-7858
Sheriff Paul Bailey (269) 983-7141
Rep. John Conyers (313) 961-5670

We wait for newspapers, TV, and radio to do the right thing.
Not to mention Gov. "if you vote for me, Whirlpool, I'll get you that golf course" Granholm.

checks to BANCO for heroic whistleblower Pinkney's legal fees:
1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022


Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Discussion Of Race That Matters

A Message from Cynthia McKinney March 18, 2008

Much has been made around the edges of this campaign about the issue of race. Sadly, nothing has been made of the public policy exigencies that arise because of the urgent racial disparities that continue to exist in our country. Just last week, the United Nations criticized the United States, again, for its failure to address the issues arising from the rights, particularly the right of return, of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita survivors. Author Bill Quigley writes in "The Cleansing of New Orleans," that half of the working poor, elderly, and disabled of New Orleans have not been able to return. Two weeks ago, United Nations experts on housing and minority rights called for an immediate end of public housing demolitions in New Orleans. Now, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, ratified by the U.S. in 1994, further observes that the U.S. must do more to protect and support the African American community. In 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Commission "noted its concern that while African Americans constitute just 12% of the population, they represent 50% of homeless people, and the government is required to take 'adequate and adequately implemented' measures to remedy this human rights violation." In short, the United Nations has issued reports squarely calling for the United States to do more to eliminate racial discrimination and this discrimination is a human rights violation.

I am deeply offended that in the middle of a Presidential campaign, remarks--be they from a pastor or a communications mogul, or a former Vice Presidential nominee--are the cause of a focus on race, and not the deep racial disparities that communities are forced to endure on a daily basis in this country.

Myriad reports and studies that have been done all come up with the same basic conclusion: in order to resolve deep and persisting racial disparities in this country, a public policy initiative is urgently needed. A real discussion of race, in the context of a Presidential election, ought to include a discussion of the various public policy initiatives offered by the various candidates to eliminate all forms and vestiges of racial discrimination, including the racial disparities that cloud the hopes, dreams, and futures of millions of Americans.


Monday, March 17, 2008


In Tim Wise's March 6 article, Uh-Obama: Racism, White Voters and the Myth of Color-Blindness, the extremely important research information listed below was found. (The article is interesting in it's expose of how Obama's attempt to "transcend race" is really proof that America is more racist than ever. As far as the presidential campaign goes, for those of you desirous of real/fundamental change, I respectfully urge you to read the excellent editorial
TheOrganizerNewspaper: Obama Vs. McKinney: Who is theRealProgressiveCandidate? -

-2006 saw the largest number of race-based housing discrimination complaints on record, and according to government and private studies, there are between two and three million cases of housing discrimination each year against people of color?

-according to over a hundred studies, health disparities between whites and blacks are due not merely to health care costs and economic differences between the two groups (a subject he does address) but also due to the provision of discriminatory care by providers, even to blacks with upper incomes, and black experiences with racism itself, which are directly related to hypertension and other maladies?

-whites are over seventy percent of drug users, but only about ten percent of persons incarcerated for a drug possession offense, while blacks and Latinos combined are about twenty-five percent of users, but comprise roughly ninety percent of persons locked up for a possession offense? [hello, Berrien County...]

-massive national study by legal scholars Alfred and Ruth Blumrosen, which found that at least a third of all businesses in the nation engage in substantial discrimination against people of color--hiring such folks at rates that are well below their availability in the local and qualified labor pool, and well below the rates at which they are to be found in non-discriminating companies in the same locales and industries? Indeed, according to the Blumrosen study, at least 1.3 million qualified people of color will face job discrimination in a given year. Or what of the study of temporary agencies in California, which found that white women who are less qualified than their black counterparts, are still three times more likely to be favored in a job search?

-in 2007 there was a twelve percent jump in race-based discrimination complaints in the workplace relative to the previous year (almost all of which were filed by persons of color): bringing the number of such complaints to their highest level since 1994?

-in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, government at all levels and across party lines has engaged in ethnic cleansing in New Orleans, failing to provide rental assistance to the mostly black tenant base for over a year, plotting to tear down 5000 perfectly usable units of public housing, failing to restart the city's public health care infrastructure, and even ordering the Red Cross not to provide relief in the first few days after the city flooded in September 2005, so as to force evacuation and empty out the city?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Doug Bragg - another Berrien County frame-up

Yes I heard about this [L.D. Fuse] last week. Thanks for the update. Doug Bragg who is a friend of Rev. Pinkney is asking for people to help support him in court tomorrow as well. Doug is being charged with possession of cocaine, running a drug house, disturbing the peace and resisting arrest but the police planted crack pipes in his apt and are trying to throw the book at him - one big ugly mess after another. All we can do is pray and ask the lord to intervene Monday in both court rooms. Doug sees Judge Pasula. Ugh! --a Berrien County resident

Rev. Pinkney & L.D. Fuse

On Mar. 12 at 11am there was another shake-down and move against Rev. Pinkney by the Berrien County jail guards.

The sgt. took his mattress and blanket. At some point they were returned, but we now see a pattern of intimidation attacks against Pinkney. Pinkney is a "model prisoner" - helping and counseling other prisoners. He reports "spontaneous" angry outbursts by guards which are obviously carefully planned.

March 17, tomorrow - 10am: Judge Butzbaugh will hear the motion to disqualify the entire Berrien County bench for Rev. Pinkney's hearings, trials. Berrien County Courthouse, 811 Port St., St. Joseph, MI I-94, exit 33

* * *

The following is the continuing story of the L.D. Fuse case in Berrien County courthouse. One can hardly believe this story. It's a result of a court operating in geographical isolation, unchecked by the state. It would appear that the judges and attys. have never stepped inside of another courthouse, getting away with the most unethical, inhumane legal shenanigans imaginable - for many, many years. A true kangaroo court which must be seen in action to be believed. These injustices are going on everyday in Berrien County Courthouse.

No new trial for man who resisted cops at fire
‘There is nothing unusual about police officers having guns in the United States.’


Judge rules officer with gun in courthouse didn’t intimidate defense witnesses
By SCOTT AIKEN Herald-Palladium Staff Writer March 15, 08
ST. JOSEPH — A judge ruled Friday that no witnesses were intimidated when a Ben ton Township police officer took out a gun in front of de fense witnesses waiting to testify in a trial at the Berrien County Courthouse.
Berrien Trial Court Judge Charles LaSata denied a mo tion for a new trial filed by L.D. Fuse Jr., who claimed that Patrolman Scott Igert scared and intimidated wit nesses outside a courtroom on Feb. 21.
After an evidentiary hear ing, LaSata said witnesses John Fuse and Roy Jr. Wade both told the court that the gun incident did not cause them to leave anything out of their trial testimony.
“There is nothing unusual about police officers having guns in the United States,” he said.
Police are allowed to have guns in courthouses and court rooms, the judge said, except in cases where an officer is a party in a divorce action. L.D. Fuse claimed that wit nesses were intimidated by Igert as they waited in a hall way to testify during his trial. Fuse, 50, and his mother, Lau ra Fuse, 70, were found guilty by a jury of resisting and ob structing police at their house at 1776 Eastland Ave. while it was burning Nov. 12.
Police said they had to re strain the Fuses to stop them from entering the house and being killed or injured. De­fense witnesses testified that police used too much force and at one point administered a second jolt from a Taser to L.D. Fuse when he was al ready on the ground.
The mother and son are free on bond pending sentencing on April 7.
John Fuse, who is L.D.’s brother, and Wade, who lives next door to the house on East land, told the court Friday that Igert stepped into the hallway after testifying on Feb. 21, the first day of the two-day trial.
The witnesses said Igert put a leg up on a chair, took a gun from his ankle area and put it away at his back.
John Fuse testified that Igert looked at the gun and turned it in his hands as a row of seated defense witnesses looked on. Igert then put the gun away at the small of his back and left, Fuse said.
“In my mind, I thought he was going to shoot us all,” said Fuse. “It felt wrong. It felt crazy.”
Fuse said all the witnesses were watching Igert, who did not point the gun at anyone.
“On that carpet you could have heard a pin drop. Con versation stopped. All eyes were on him,” Fuse said.
Questioned by defense at torney Bradford Springer, Fuse testified that he was also frightened in an incident ear lier in the day when Igert fol lowed him into a bathroom and made a quick hand motion inches from Fuse’s face to put down a piece of paper.
Fuse told the court that he and his mother, Laura Fuse, had discussed a possible civil damage suit against the Ben­ton Township Police Depart ment.
Wade testified that he was nervous when he came to court Feb. 21 because he was going to have to testify about police behavior at the fire scene.
Wade said he did not believe that Igert was planning to shoot anybody when he took out the gun but the officer was trying to scare witnesses.
LaSata also rejected several other claims raised in the de fense motion for a new trial.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Michael Sepic, who presented the state’s case at trial, prop erly brought in evidence about a conviction against defense witness Tim Kopaceski, the judge said, because it was to show possible bias against the police department.
Also, evidence that Springer wanted to introduce about lapsed police certifications for Taser weapons, and whether the Tasers were properly pro grammed, was not relevant to the criminal activity of resist ing and obstructing police, La Sata said.
And Springer was given all the time he wanted to present the defense theory of the case in his closing argument, La Sata said.
Springer argued that the judge should have instructed the jury on the defense theory.
Contact Scott Aiken at saiken@herald palladium.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Convicted of resisting police during fire, L.D. Fuse Jr.

[The frustration many of us feel about the ongoing Berrien County police and court abuse - for many decades - is overwhelming. Please spread this story all over the country. Maybe the federal gov. will do it's job. As many know, the following story is not unusual for this county.]

By Scott Aiken
Herald Palladium - March 11, 2008
St. Joseph, MI — A Benton Township man convicted of resisting police during a fire at his house claims a policeman brandished a pistol to intimidate defense witnesses at his trial.
In a motion for a new trial, L.D. Fuse Jr. said township Patrolman Scott Igert exhibited a gun in front of sequestered witnesses in a hallway at the Berrien County Courthouse to intimidate and scare them before they testified.
Five witnesses signed a citizen complaint form attesting to Igert’s behavior, which allegedly occurred on the afternoon of Feb. 21, the first day of Fuse’s trial.
State police at district headquarters in Paw Paw are investigating. A hearing on Fuse’s motion in Berrien County Trial Court is set for Friday morning.
After a two-day trial, a jury found the 50-year-old Fuse and his mother, Laura Fuse, 70, guilty of resisting and obstructing police on Nov. 12 at their house at 1776 Eastland Ave. They face up to two years in prison and are scheduled to be sentenced April 7.
Fuse, a former military policeman in the Marine Corps, and his mother were acquitted of a second charge of disturbing the peace.
Defense witnesses testified the Fuses did nothing to interfere with police. But police testified that restraint was required to keep the two from entering the burning structure.
L.D. Fuse Jr. also seeks a new trial on grounds that the prosecutor did not comply with a pretrial discovery request. Fuse alleges Chief Assistant Prosecutor Michael Sepic misrepresented to the court that a defense witness had no criminal record, then brought up a criminal offense as trial evidence to discredit the witness.
Fuse also claims trial Judge Charles LaSata would not allow the defense to introduce evidence showing that Benton Township police Sgt. Tim Sutherland did not have current certification for the Taser he used to immobilize Fuse at the fire.
The judge erred by not giving a jury instruction on the defense theory of the case, according to Fuse’s motion. The defense claimed that police who arrested the Fuses used force without justification and that the defendants were not resisting.
According to the citizen complaint filed with the court and filled out by defense witness John Fuse, Igert walked out of the courtroom after testifying, then took out a gun.
Igert “pulled it up high and waited a few seconds,” Fuse said in the complaint, then put the gun away and walked past the defense witnesses who were waiting their turns to testify.
John Fuse is L.D. Fuse Jr.’s brother and Laura Fuse’s son.
“You could hear a pin dropped when he was handling his gun,” Fuse said in the complaint.
Later, John Fuse said, he and his family “slept in fear,” too afraid to watch TV or sit in the living room. The complaint was signed by Fuse and four other defense witnesses.
In a separate incident on the first day of trial, John Fuse said in the complaint, Igert followed him into a bathroom and intimidated him by making a quick motion toward his head, as if to strike him.
Benton Township Police Chief Vince Fetke said he would not comment on the case before he has had a chance to talk to the Prosecutor’s Office, which he said might happen today. Igert could not be reached Monday for comment.
Contact Scott Aiken at saiken@TheH­

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Statue of Liberty?

America’s penal system is a state of crisis, a new report reveals. So why is Britain in such a rush to emulate it?
by Juliet Lyon

It took the US prison population less than 40 years to rise from 300,000 in 1972 to 2.3 million people today. America has become the undisputed global leader in the rate at which it imprisons its citizens, easily outdistancing other high incarcerators such as Russia, Iran and China. Yet, according to a report just published by the respected Pew Centre, harsher sentencing and growing prison numbers are “saddling cash-strapped states with soaring costs they can ill afford, and failing to have a clear impact either on recidivism or overall crime”.

Here heads are turned to the American primaries as the election roadshow rolls on. What we don’t see, or hear about, are the millions who will not be voting for Clinton, Obama or McCain - who will not, in fact, be voting at all. In many American states not only are people stripped of their voting rights as they are jailed but they are also permanently disenfranchised on release. Human rights lawyer Bryan Stephenson, member of Penal Reform International’s American board, estimates that around one-third of black men in Alabama are no longer eligible to vote. Last time round, the Democrat’s failure to right the wrong of disenfranchisement, which they had identified but classed as a low level priority, is thought to have cost them the pivotal Florida election and then the country.

So why does our government, committed as it is to social inclusion, turn for ideas to America where excessive levels of incarceration are creating and maintaining a growing underclass? Why seek answers from a country which jails one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 and for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine. Admittedly, in the main, British delegations are studying ways in which states are trying to dig themselves out of a hole: sentencing commissions to regulate prison numbers in Minnesota, prisoner re-entry in California, the start of Atlantic Philanthropies’ work to examine the damaging imprisonment of the mentally ill, the success of Red Hook drugs court and widespread attempts at justice re-investment in Kansas, Texas and other states, diverting prison monies into effective community solutions to crime.

Nonetheless, rather than spending much time looking for answers across the Atlantic, politicians could look closer to home for solutions in the UK and among our European neighbours. It would be useful to look to countries that have set out to use imprisonment sparingly, like Finland and Denmark, or to Germany which locks up 92 people per 100,000 compared to England and Wales, where a frenzied prison building programme is set to propel prison numbers to a shaming 178 per 100,000. In Scotland new ministers are working systematically to reduce prison numbers and to rebalance the criminal justice system.

Last week, in a shadow green paper on prison reform (pdf), the Conservative leader acknowledged the need to reduce prison numbers but restricted his party to doing so “in the long term in the only acceptable way by driving down re-offending”. Meanwhile, he would be prepared to build a further 5,000 places on top of Labour’s promised 15,000. When it comes to prisons, politicians of all parties fall too easily into costly macho posturing.

Only a few months ago, at the Local Government Association conference in Birmingham, David Cameron said he was not prepared to tolerate what he described as: “a depressing journey … of three-letter acronyms from an EBD unit to a PRU. From the PRU to a YOI. And finally to an HMP.” This would be an excellent place to start by responding to the needs of troubled young people before they get sucked into the youth justice system for the first time, as an extraordinary 93,730 children did in 2006-7. Some time ago a young woman in prison told me:

“We’ve all been through social services, foster [homes], children’s homes, getting kicked out of school, secure units … I’m sure we’ve all been through that road, it’s like a journey and we’ve all collected our tickets along the way.”

For 15 years, successive governments have allowed prisons to rot in a policy vacuum. Now the Tories have turned the spotlight on our most neglected least visible public service, Gordon Brown must reach beyond party politics and establish a royal commission on the nature and purpose of imprisonment. This would be a disciplined, independent group with knowledge and integrity and a mandate, not to wring hands about the mess we’re in, but with the potential to relocate prison as a genuine last resort. This would enable prison to be placed at the far end of an integrated framework for the development of sensible, long-term social and criminal justice policy. The commission would heed, but probably not dwell on, a timely warning from America.

Juliet Lyon is director of the Prison Reform Trust.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Stories From Another Planet (we wish)

Police hold an entire city in a State of Siege - scare one, scare all (enough to leave) and Whirlpool gets their golf course/environmental disaster!

A Benton Township man and his 70 year old mother face up to two years in jail for FALSELY being charged with resisting and obstructing police during a fire at their home.

A Berrien County jury took less than 90 minutes to find them guilty. Floyd Wade Jr., a next door neighbor told the jury that L.D. Fuse was only standing in the yard when police used a taser weapon to disable him. "I did not see him do anything wrong," Wade said. "He was just standing when the officer shot him." Wade testified that he was standing 6 to 7 feet from Fuse when police tasered him. Wade said Laura Fuse screamed, "You shot my baby." When her son was disabled, she became hysterical.

Timothy Kopaceski testified that he lives two blocks from the Fuse home. He, his wife Stephanie, and their two children heard the commotion and walked over. Kopaceski said he saw Fuse on the ground after being stunned by police, trying to get up. He said police administered a second jolt and an officer picked up Laura Fuse, manhandling her as he moved her to a police car. Stephanie Kopaceski testified she also saw Fuse on the ground and patrolman Scott Igert should "pay the price" for the way he treated a 70 year old woman. The jury found the Fuse family guilty - They were motivated by something other than the truth... but we're aware of problems with the Berrien jury system...


Police brutality and profiling are severe only to the extent that county powers permit. Whirlpool Corp., the Berrien County administration, court system, and media (mainly the Herald Palladium) have colluded to create the various over-the-top abusive law enforcement agencies which have been in operation for decades here.

Benton Harbor police officer Andrew Collins is on trial for aggravated assault and disturbing the peace at Vickie's Sandbar, St. Joseph, MI. Collins is charged with assaulting Richard Imler, a bar bouncer who suffered a fractured skull when he was kicked, punched, and knocked to the ground. Collins is also being investigated for failure to follow protocol and failure to turn in drugs which were found in his possession. He has a long history of planting drugs on people, in cars, etc.

Benton Harbor police Chief Al Mingo should be held accountable for Officer Collin's actions. Collins once filed a false police report, was caught, and given 30 days off work without pay. He threatened to go public with the illegal activities of the BH police dept. and county court system. Mingo immediately took back the 30 days and gave Collins only five days. Where is the U.S. Dept. of Justice?

Benton Harbor: 94% black with police dept. 87% white. Black genocide from the cradle to the grave. Black life is at risk. The blue print for how the systematic killing of African-Americans is being carried out in BH is not invisible.

Addendum - A ray of justice: Collins resigned from the BH Police Dept. on Wed. (3/5/08), found guilty of assault and battery in Berrien County trial court on Friday. Collins also is the subject of an "internal investigation" in the dept. The state police and FBI should be called in to investigate not only Collins but Chief Mingo and the entire dept.


Berrien County Jail is known for violating inmates constitutional rights

personal humiliation and intimidation
no tissue
no soap
no writing paper
50 degree cells
infected with disease
inedible food (25 cents spent per serving)
$10 per week 13" TV rental but turned on/off at will by deputy with no money back
$12 to get booked into jail (you pay them to arrest you)
fifteen second doctor visit is $25
allowed change of clothes once a week - inmates sleep in daytime clothing
all mail inspected including attorney correspondence
an inmate gets one small soiled towel and one soiled sheet
$43/day to stay there
phone calls all recorded and cost triple the normal amounts

The county and phone company have formed a monopoly so the inmates can be charged extra money and a super high rate. Rev. Pinkney has lost sixteen pounds so far.

Prisoner Rights:'_rights

We wait for newspapers, TV, and radio to do the right thing.
Not to mention Gov. "if you vote for me, Whirlpool, I'll get you that golf course" Granholm.

checks to BANCO for heroic whistleblower Pinkney's legal fees:
1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Yes to Mental Health Courts

Berrien County might look seriously at this issue if they care about improving an antiquated system with a statewide reputation. (not good)

By Mark Reinstein

Michigan, like the country, has a tremendous problem with persons who have mental illness entering adult and juvenile justice systems. Gov. Granholm has proposed one promising remedial step in her fiscal year 2009 executive budget - i.e., $3.4 million for five pilot mental health courts in the state. We strongly encourage the Legislature to approve this recommendation.

How bad is the problem? The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in 2006 that nationwide, 64 percent of jail inmates and 56 percent of state prison inmates had mental illness. More than 75 percent of jail inmates with mental illness - and more than 50 percent of state prisoners with mental illness - had committed nonviolent offenses. More than 75 percent of both jail and prison inmates with mental illness had been incarcerated previously.

In Michigan, the last time county jails were independently studied was 1998-99, when the Department of Community Health sent contracted clinicians into the Wayne, Kent and Clinton county jails. Their diagnostic interviews found that the prevalence of mental illness (exclusive of substance abuse) was 51 percent, and the prevalence of the three most serious diagnoses was 34 percent.

The last time Michigan prisons were independently studied was in the mid-1980s, by two state universities. A mental illness rate of 40 percent (exclusive of substance abuse) was found. For the three most serious diagnoses, the rate was 24 percent. This was before Michigan subsequently closed a dozen state-operated psychiatric hospitals.

The term "deinstitutionalization'' is often used to represent the downsizing of state-operated psychiatric hospitals. But we have not deinstitutionalized mental illness; we have trans-institutionalized it to prisons, jails and juvenile justice facilities.

Michigan and the country are experiencing an epidemic of persons who have mental illness winding up in justice systems, which are not therapeutic settings and often can't provide needed care. In many cases, offenses by persons with mental illness are relatively minor and may not have occurred if the individual had been connected with community treatment.

Multi-faceted responses are needed for this problem. But one thing we can do now is establish some specialized mental health courts, as much of the country has done. There are approximately 150 such courts nationally; Michigan has one fledgling mental health court begun last October.

Communities with mental health courts make local determinations of types of offenses that, if committed by someone with mental illness, are eligible for treatment in lieu of incarceration. These programs do not set free individuals whose offenses exceed the local community's standards as to what is and isn't acceptable for consideration of mental health court eligibility. Typically, completion of a recommended treatment regimen by those who are eligible is required to avoid incarceration, and successful completion of the treatment erases the offense from an individual's record.

There are numerous citations from other states of this approach saving substantial amounts of money, as it is less expensive to treat mental illness in the community than to house (and treat) someone in a justice facility.

For example, the Akron (Ohio) Mental Health Court in its first three years dramatically reduced program participants' time in county jail, state prison and state psychiatric hospitals.

And in San Francisco, to provide one other illustration, a large-scale university study found mental health court participants much less likely than others charged with crimes to commit new offenses generally or violent offenses specifically.

It is also far more humane for persons and families experiencing mental illness to receive community treatment rather than incarceration. That is among the reasons the Governor's Mental Health Commission recommended in 2004 that Michigan must establish some mental health courts.

Mental health courts won't solve all problems relating to incarceration of individuals with mental illness. But it's time we caught up with most other states in making use of this tool to help fight the problem. We hope the state Legislature will see the wisdom of doing so for what is a minuscule amount of money in the total state budget picture.

About the writer: Mark Reinstein is president and CEO of the Mental Health Association in Michigan, a statewide advocacy headquartered in Southfield and partly funded by United Way.
3/2/08, Ann Arbor News

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Three Voices from Benton Harbor

Jail or Concentration Camp?

In a waiting room for prisoner's families and friends at the Berrien County Jail in St. Joseph, Michigan, visitors discuss the condition of the jail - the MRSA virus, and the filth. Most disgusting, families say little black worms come out of the prisoner's shower-head, the shower drain and around the toilet. They say it's like sewage that was never cleansed. Everything inside the overcrowded jail is dirty, with poor air ventilation and inmates sleeping on the gym floor, meaning there is no daily exercise for the prisoners. GED degrees and even doctor visits are too costly for the poor who make up the jail population.

The concentration camp conditions in American jails await not only the victims of poverty, but also anyone who dares to speak out against injustice. We are slipping rapidly into a Nazi-type America. The stakes are high. Capitalism, a system based on the exploitation of human labor, no longer has any use for workers now that computers and robots are taking the jobs. Are jails and concentration camps our future? No. Our hope is in building a massive movement for a just society, but it has to be fought for.

- The People's Tribune Editors


Jail Visitor Speaks Out

By Patricia Johnson

"On our first visit, my son and I got to the Berrien County jail at 12:30 p.m. There was a long line of people waiting in the cold. One-half hour later the door opened and the people rushed in to get warm. It took almost an hour to sign in at one window. There were limited seats in the waiting area and many people stood for as long as two hours waiting to visit. We were told to go to the first floor and we had to wait about 20 more minutes for the previous group to leave. The telephones were filthy and there were interruptions on the phone lines. This is an unforgettable experience."


It's Not the Messenger who is a Liar

By Dorothy Pinkney

In America, we were given the right to free speech. That right is protected by law and the enforcers of the law. If someone should take away those rights, the government is to provide protection.
Not so with my husband, Rev. Edward Pinkney. His freedom of speech was violated on December 14, 2007 by his probation officer, James B. Pjesk and by Berrien Country government, which is run by the dominant corporation in the area, Whirlpool.

Remember, my husband is a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a strong leader and well-known activist in Berrien County since 2000. His message was against injustice, corporate power, racism, and a call to Repentance. Berrien County Government says his message was a threat and he therefore remains in the Berrien County Jail.

I ask, why did Berrien County allow the KKK the right to organize a rally in 1998? Why were they given the right to free speech? Why were they protected by law enforcement? And yet Berrien County can tell my husband that he has no rights to free speech or to organize citizens for a successful recall election against former commissioner Glen Yarbrough. One step further - they are saying that the citizens have no rights therefore we're discarding your votes. The message is that they have the right to take your rights, lock you up in inhumane jail conditions, serve cold food, put you on lock-down, take away visitation rights, block your phone calls, charge you $150 for a GED, $150 for medical fees, or $25 for a doctor fee. Judge Butzbaugh took a prophetic Biblical warning given in a newspaper article as a threat, therefore establishing his own law, sentencing my husband to a year. When a prophetic warning is given by God and it's rejected, when given by His messenger - it's not the messenger who is a liar. You're saying God is a liar. What Judge, government officials or anyone else can come against God's truth - the Bible? The Judge erred when he stated the article was intimidating and threatening, but the subjected of a listener can't create a threat where none exists.

We cannot allow the court system to take away our rights. We must stand together on Biblical Truth. We stand on the truth of the polygraph test proving my husband's innocence of all charges and that he's in jai for a crime he never committed.

The purpose of the speech-press clauses is to protect parties in the free publication of matters of public concern and to secure their rights to a free discussion of public concern, public events, public measure and to enable every citizen to bring the government to the bar of public opinion by any just criticism upon their conduct in the exercise of the authority, which the people have conferred upon them.


Write or send donations to:
BANCO (tax deductible)
1940 Union St.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

The King, the Knave and the Knight

By Philip A. Bassett

A friend tells me there is “no documented evidence” of the KKK in St. Joseph, MI, right across the river from Benton Harbor, a city that is almost entirely populated by black people. But looking at the perfect, sterile beauty of St. Joseph and the boarded-up broken promises of Benton Harbor, it’s hard not to wonder what force keeps them so separate. If you consider some out-of-place actions from the government such as overturning a legitimate recall election, firing a competent city clerk, and jailing an activist church leader, then things get even more strange. In the hope of shedding some light, I offer this musing on the King, the Knave and the Knight.
The King in this scenario, Judge Alfred Butzbaugh, is probably not a bad fellow, as far as that goes. If you had seen him, as I have, wandering the halls of justice wearing a lost look and a soft yellow sweater, you might think he was just another sweet old man running late for his checker game. He’s not that much more imposing in his courtly robes, and his manner in court is quiet and seemingly rational. But I’m afraid old Alfred is slaying the truth, not necessarily by what he says or does, but what he leaves out.
To give an example, a company I’m with filmed the entire (first) trial accusing Rev. Edward Pinkney of voter fraud in March of 2006, which ended in a hung jury. We filmed other hearings and eventually ended up making a documentary. After one of the hearings, Judge Butzbaugh called me up before him, as if I were a defendant in the case, and told me my camera was no longer welcome in the courtroom. The reason, he said, was that we had showed some of the jurors in our documentary. Now technically, what the judge said was correct. What he failed to say was that they were shots of the backs of jurors’ heads, with virtually no chance of identification. The judge had kicked me out on a technicality, and I could only come up with on conclusion: He wanted my camera out of there because I had just filmed some hours of testimony detailing how Berrien County systematically excludes black and/or poor people from jury selection pools. Don’t believe me? I’ve got four Sony mini-DV tapes to prove it. And Al Butzbaugh knows it.
He knows other things too, like there are already laws on the books to prevent tampering with mail, and that absentee ballot laws tend to discourage absentee voting and to target citizens who use absentee ballots in their election strategy. He knows there is no hard evidence against the Reverend; that the piles of phone records and absentee ballots mean nothing, and that differences in writing on applications is not illegal. He knows that the prosecution has no case beyond the conflicting testimony of questionable witnesses, with some witnesses’ stories even conflicting with their own testimony from an earlier, civil trial that was to result in the firing of that impeccable city clerk, Jean Nesbitt. But most of all, he knows the only reason for this phony trial, and one to follow, was to legitimize the illegally overturned election recalling City Commissioner Glen Yarbrough.
And the election couldn’t be allowed to stand, since point man Yarbrough would then be gone and the whole deal would fall through: the Jack Nicklaus golf course, the fabulous multi-million dollar resort and control of the water treatment plant, all included in the sweetest land grab since Manhattan Island. Obviously, Butzbaugh and his corporate pals at Whirlpool, Cornerstone Alliance and Harbor Shores weren’t going to let some loud-mouthed preacher with an eye on justice get in the way of all that fun. Pinkney had to go, or it would all crumble apart.
There are other things that Judge Butzbaugh is not telling, like the fact that he and his real estate company likely stand to profit handsomely from the development that Pinkney is fighting, Harbor Shores. It smells like a conflict of interest, something judges are supposed to stay away from. But like most kings in the political sphere, Al Butzbaugh is really a pawn for a larger entity, containing more kings and queens thirsty for entertainment and baubles, and he doesn’t have time to worry about that now.
Knaves typically get forgotten in history, and ours will probably fare no differently. His main role here is to be the second “K” in the title, and thus produce the clever reference to a national group of racist clowns. Gerald Vigansky is a young prosecutor, not yet practiced in the lawyerly art of looking at the defendant with disgust and maintaining an attitude of righteous indignation. His voice doesn’t carry much conviction as he stutters and stumbles over his arguments. He muddles along though, producing piles of phone records and piles of applications that were all filled out correctly, designed to bore the jury to stupefaction so that they failed to notice he had no case, and that his star witness was a crackhead. (Sorry, it’s true.) It’s amazing that he got ten out of twelve people to believe him at the trial I attended, and all twelve jurors on the second go-round. My gut feeling is that part of the reason he was able to obtain a conviction the second time is that Rev. Pinkney is African-American, and all twelve members of the jury were palefaces like me. But how do you prove something like that?
Rev. Edward Pinkney, a Knight in every sense of the word, is my friend and personal hero. He calls me his “covenant brother”, and I’m completely, unabashedly proud of that. These days I feel like I’m never doing enough because my covenant brother is sitting in the Berrien County Jail in a cell with five other men, on a gym floor with just a blanket, or in “the hole”, depending on which story you believe. (I myself have not called the jail, even though I know the number. I’m sorry to tell you that, but I’m afraid of those kinds of places. Thinking of people in cages makes me feel like God has died.)
Edward Pinkney, like most of us, doesn’t have a perfect past. He says he got in a fight once when he was younger and went to jail for it, even though there were two guys on the other side. He also went to prison for a year and a half over an insurance fraud case, but says that he was set up because of his civil rights activities. He claims he was always a top salesman with no need for tricks. With what I’m seeing in his current case, I could easily believe that Berrien County would jail someone for being politically active.
Pinkney has other problems as well; he tends to get under the skin of public officials. He has continually spoken out against the seemingly constant corruption and police brutality in the city. He organized picketers when Belinda Brown’s niece almost got raped at gun point by that store-owner, and led the march after Terrence Shurn was run into a building on his motorcycle by police. Perhaps most frustratingly, he has sat in on court hearings on a daily basis, advising young men that they have rights and that they don’t have to plead guilty just because the lawyers tell them to. But his biggest crime of all was organizing a successful recall election against a city commissioner and his corporate backers which was handily overturned, a week or so later, by the opinion of one Judge Paul Maloney.
Some have called the Reverend a “provocateur” but, from what I gather, all that means is that he tells the truth loudly and often. My guess is the real reason Butzbaugh and Co. want him off the scene is because he has a remarkable way of exposing inequities.
What makes the Reverend’s fight even more courageous is the Goliath he faces. Whirlpool Corp. is a pioneer in designing new ways to rip people off. In 1999, according to the Multinational Monitor, a jury levied a $581 million judgment against the company for bilking unsuspecting poor people in Alabama by selling dish systems for five times their actual worth. Executives at Whirlpool expressed no remorse, of course. Nor do they now, as they lift their corporate claw to pounce on a Lake Michigan dune area known as Jean Klock Park, which was supposedly left to the residents of Benton Harbor forever. What makes the deal really stink is that Benton Harbor has to pay for the infrastructure for the golf course/development and then in twenty years, it all becomes the property of the city of St. Joseph. This is just another swat in a long series of slaps in the face for the residents of Benton Harbor, who have more than borne the brunt of the “benefits” of globalization.
Rev. Pinkney, being the man that he is, chooses to fight these manipulations at whatever level he can. As an activist, he is tireless; as a speaker, he is inspirational; as a human being, he is honorable. He has mastered the art of tough love in his dealings at the courthouse, and has a smile and a joke for everyone. He knows people change slowly and institutions even more so, but he is willing to put in the time to catch others’ attention, and hopefully, make them think. He tolerates the countless impositions on his time and health, including intimidation by police, two lengthy trials, and now sitting in jail. I believe the man would even give his life, if he thought it would change some of the awful things going on in Benton Harbor.
As it is, Pinkney and other residents remain heavily outgunned and outmaneuvered by their corporate overlords. Other alliances may be developing, though. One group in the Benton Harbor area has sent a letter with over 1500 signatures on it to the DNR, protesting the lack of a citizen comment period and other irregularities in the takeover of Jean Klock Park. Another citizens alliance from southwestern Michigan has begun to uncover and compile evidence of numerous conflicts of interest on the part of Judge Alfred Butzbaugh and other Berrien County dignitaries. Disgusted with the apparent corruption in this case, they are planning to hold press conferences across the state in the next few months. Meanwhile, Rev. Pinkney awaits his March 5th & 7th trial dates, and the chance of shedding some light on events in the land of the King, the Knave and the Knight.