Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Brandon Hall Sentenced to Only 30 Days for 10 Felony Counts of Election Fraud

The sentence handed down Tuesday to Brandon Hall demonstrates without a doubt the disparities in the (in)justice system. The 27-year-old from Grand Haven was convicted in November on 10 felony counts of election fraud. This was after admitting that he and a friend conspired to forge countless signatures on the petition to get attorney Chris Houghtaling on the ballot in 2013.

Hall, a young white man, enjoyed his freedom over the past four years, during which he ran for a state House seat and volunteered for Donald Trump's campaign--which has raised more calls for a recount of Michigan's presidential votes. In 2010, Hall was convicted of stealing from a school fundraiser to benefit the American Cancer Society, while serving on the Grand Haven school board.

Yet after admitting to blatantly and intentionally forging signatures on a ballot petition, Hall was sentenced to only 30 days in prison. The Michigan State Police investigator, Lt. Greg Poulson, said he thought Hall's sentence was "appropriate."

In contrast, Rev. Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, a Black community organizer for racial and social justice, was convicted of five felony counts of election fraud and sentenced to two-and-a-half to ten years in prison. He maintains his innocence to this day and continues to fight to overturn his conviction. The district, appeals, and supreme courts of Michigan refused all petitions for bond pending appeal for Rev. Pinkney, despite acknowledging that he posed no flight risk whatsoever.

Hall and his friend Zachary Savage (who was not charged in exchange for his testimony) both maintain that the would-be judicial candidate Houghtaling was aware of the forgeries, but Houghtaling has not been charged and continues to practice law in Ottawa County. A commenter wrote: "Houghtaling should be in jail for more than just this one crime, lawyers don't go under oath unfortunately."

For more: Grand Haven Tribune: "Hall Gets 30 Days in Jail"
Grand Haven Tribune: "Jury finds Brandon Hall guilty of election fraud"
Michigan Radio: "After long legal battle, GOP blogger gets 30 days in jail for forging voter signatures"

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Long Range Master Plan to Imprison Blacks

On Nixon's orders, in the spring of 1970, the Bureau of Prisons devised a ten-year "Long Range Master Plan" to expand and modernize the American correctional system. The $500 million initially allotted for this expansion--more than $1.5 billion in today's dollars--represented an entirely new phase of investment in federal prisons. The Department of Justice, created in 1870, had operated only three penal facilities for the first fifty years of its existence, although it steadily opened twenty-four more between 1923 and 1950. Mitchell worked closely with the Bureau of Prisons as it set out to construct a dozen prisons for adult men, a dozen reformatories, four women's prisons, four psychiatric facilities and a special Metropolitan Correctional Center to replace overburdened jails in select "high crime" urban areas by the end of the decade. Nixon had called for a "prototype" at the federal level that would inspire states to follow suit and the administration's strategies reverberated throughout the entire American penal system.

The Nixon administration's commitment to a complete overhaul of American prisons all but ensured the future arrest and incarceration of millions of Americans far removed from the meeting rooms of the White House and the Bureau of Prisons. Mitchell and other Nixon officials knew well that their anticrime policies would result in a significant increase in the number of Americans behind bars. The draconian sentencing measures Nixon planned for Washington, D.C., as well as the heavy-handed policing strategies he and other conservative policymakers supported, were rationalized by the idea that incarceration functioned as a powerful crime deterrent, the value of which could only succeed if punishment was certain. "Deterrence and retribution, many times overlooked in the languages of crime justice, are again being recognized as valid reasons for incarceration," as Norman Carlson, the director of the Bureau of Prisons from 1970 to 1987, testified before the House Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice in 1975. In embracing the expansion of the prison system and the incarceration of violators for long periods as the only effective means to protect society, Carlson and other Nixon officials believed prisoner rehabilitation was an impractical goal. "The idea that violent offenders can be rehabilitated by some combination of vocational, counseling, and other programs, inside or outside an institution, has yet to be demonstrated," Carlson argued, citing the work of criminologist Norval Morris and political scientist James Q. Wilson. Far from an inevitable process, the deliberate strategy of increasing the number of prisoners that federal officials and law enforcement authorities embraced throughout the 1970s was a critical aspect of the War on Crime.
Within the federal prison system, black and Latino Americans came to occupy every additional prison bed called for by the Long-Range Master Plan. Between 1970 and 1977, a period in which the percentage of federal inmates who were black and Latino increased from 27.4% to over 38%, the Bureau of Prisons opened fifteen new prisons for 4,871 inmates. At the same time, federal prisons took in 4,904 new black and Latino Americans. Observing this development at the annual meeting of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in 1974, corrections expert William Nagel said, "We must conclude, therefore, that the new prisons are for blacks."

-excerpt from Elizabeth Hinton's From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, Harvard University Press, May 9, 2016.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton Protects Berrien County's Corrupt Courthouse

We are living in a time where corruption keeps rolling in. Berrien County is one of the most corrupt counties in the whole nation but the county is protected by Representative Fred Upton who is the heir to the Whirlpool Corporation.

Sheriff Paul Bailey operated the sex to play operation in Berrien County for the last ten years. The problem is you have to play or get fired. At least 14 women have filed suits against Berrien County sheriff's deputies for sexual assault and harassment while they were incarcerated in Berrien County Jail, and even after they were released.

As reported in the IndyStar:

A federal grand jury has indicted a northwestern Indiana sheriff, his top deputy and a mayor, accusing them of collecting bribes in return for contracts for towing and other services, a prosecutor announced Friday.
Indictments name Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, Chief Deputy Tim Downs, Portage Mayor James Snyder and tow company owners William Szarmach of Chase Street Auto in Lake Station and John Cortina of Kustom Auto Body in Portage, U.S. Attorney David Capp said at a news conference.
The FBI last week raided Buncich’s offices in Crown Point, Indiana, 45 miles southeast of Chicago.
The indictment alleges that between February 2014 and October 2016, Buncich, Downs and Szarmach worked to enrich Buncich and his campaign committee, Buncich Boosters, through towing contracts.
Buncich received over $25,000 in cash and $7,000, often collected by Downs, in checks from Szarmach and an unnamed individual for towing contracts in Gary and Lake County, prosecutors said. The three men face wire fraud charges, and Buncich and Szarmach also are charged with bribery.
Snyder, named in a separate indictment, is accused of receiving $12,000 from Cortina and the same unnamed individual for towing contracts in Portage, located in neighboring Porter County. He’s also accused of accepting $13,000 for other city contracts or projects from 2013 to 2014.
The problem is these are the very same kind of activities that exist in Berrien County, Michigan, led by Sheriff Paul Bailey. Corruption is an act done with an intent to give some advantage inconsistent with official duties and the rights of others. It is the act of an official or fiduciary person who unlawfully and wrongfully uses for himself his office or character to procure some benefit for himself or for another person, contrary to duty and the rights of others.

The women are being sexually attacked by Berrien County sheriff's deputies. There are more than fifty women who have been sexually harassed.

Stop all corruption inside the establishment!

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Sheriff Paul Bailey Runs Sex to Play Operation Inside the Berrien County Jail

Sheriff Paul Bailey, one of the good old boys, is using his position inside Berrien County jail to run an actual sex to play operation inside Berrien County Jail.

The women are being sexually attacked and sexually exploited by Berrien County sheriff's deputies under Sheriff Paul Bailey's watch. There will be more than fifty sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations against Berrien County deputies.

The latest is that four more women have filed suits alleging two more Berrien County Sheriff's deputies sexually harassed them while they were jail inmates, joining 10 other women who have made similar allegations and fifty who have refused to file a complaint as of yet.

The latest complaint was filed on October 12 in U.S. District Court against former Sheriff Sergeants Brett McGrew and John McCoy who are no longer with the Berrien County department. Another former deputy, Keegan Trail, was named in the most recent action, but was removed from the lawsuit on October 19, 2016. He continues to be a defendant in the first lawsuit. If the plaintiff's attorney applies pressure to Keegan Trail, he will likely flip on at least ten Berrien County deputies.

Following an investigation last year by the Sheriff's department of his family and friends, Brett McGrew and Keegan Trail resigned and Sergeant John McCoy was fired for the sexual harassment that took place inside the jail while the women were under the Sheriff's department supervision. According to  court documents in the latest lawsuit, three of the women allege that Brett McGrew made sexual advances towards them while they were inmates in Berrien County Jail under Sheriff Paul Bailey's watch, including inappropriate physical touching, hands down the pants contact. Several of the women claim that Sergeant McGrew was able to force them to submit to all of his demands. Another woman, who was in the Berrien County jail on several occasions from 2005 to 2013, claims that McGrew continued to contact her while she was in state prison from 2013-2016 and provided money to her.

Another plaintiff charged that she was incarcerated in Berrien County jail on various occasions from 2010-2014 and that Sergeant McCoy repeatedly made several sexual advances towards her. He contacted her through social media and continued his demands, even after her release from the Berrien County jail.

Berrien County deputies here in Berrien County jail were touching the women's private parts and smashing their breasts, like they belonged to them.

The Berrien County courthouse believe they are above the law. The law does not apply to Berrien County judges, prosecutors, and the sheriff's department under Sheriff Paul Bailey, yet they profess to uphold the law and to punish those who allegedly violated the law.

As the community across the country has noted of such hypocrisy, it breeds contempt for the law. It invites every man and woman to become a law unto himself/herself.

Dare to struggle, dare to win! All power to the people. We must stop this corruption at all costs. The hypocrisy in this country has no limits.

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

More information: ABC57 and Moody on the Market

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tragedy in Berrien County

The hypocrisy of Berrien County, Michigan has no limits. I am an invisible man, like the body-less heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows; it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard distorting glass. That invisibility to which I refer occurs because of a peculiar disposition of eyes of those with whom I come in contact.

In Berrien County I have been treated, and the blacks are treated, as if they are a thing instead of a person, above all things they have denied me a fair trial. We have got to show the world we are determined to have a fair and just trial not only in Berrien County, but around the whole country.

I was convicted by an all white jury that was motivated by something other than the truth. A rogue jury that ignored the law and evidence in reaching a capricious verdict. The rogue juries include those that base their verdicts on unrevealed, deeply held prejudices. This rogue jury verdict was not based on a desire to achieve a just, fair, or moral outcome for me, but I am saying to you my friends that often the path to freedom will carry you through prison.

I was entitled to ad Direct Verdict based on the evidence presented in prosecutor Mike Septic's Case in Chief. Pinkney made a motion for a direct verdict at the close of the prosecution case in chief. Whether the prosecutor met its burden of proof must be evaluated only in reference to evidence admitted at the point. Assessing a motion for a directed verdict of acquittal, a trial must consider the evidence presented by the prosecution to the time the motion is made. The evidence presented during the defense phase of the trial has no bearing on whether Pinkney was entitled to a directed verdict at the close of the prosecution's case, just because the prosecutor questioned the validity of the claims regarding Venita Campbell made by Rev. Pinkney and three defense witnesses. This was not affirmative proof that could support the prosecution. The prosecutor had to say this to save his case, evidence does not lie, but judges and all-white juries do.

The all-white jury was led by Gail Freehling of Three Oaks, a known racist.  If we are ever going to have fair trials we must shed ourselves of fear and say to those who oppose us:  you can't stop us by shooting us, you can't stop us by killing us, you can't stop us by brutalizing us, because we're gonna keep on keeping on until we receive justice for all!    -Rev. Pinkney

Sunday, December 18, 2016

How is Prosecutor Mike Sepic’s Performance as “Minister of Justice”?

By Rev. Edward Pinkney
A prosecutor has the responsibility of a Minister of Justice, not simply that of an advocate. This responsibility carries with it specific obligations to be certain the defendant is accorded procedural justice and that guilt is decided upon the basis of sufficient evidence. 
The prosecutor in a criminal case shall refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause. In Berrien County, prosecutor Mike Sepic has a long history of charging Black individuals with charges that are not supported by probable cause. This is professional misconduct by Mike Sepic. It is professional misconduct for any prosecutor to violate or attempt to violate the rules of professional conduct, to knowingly assist or induce another to commit professional misconduct. 
To engage in conduct that is prejudicial, involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or violation of the criminal law is professional misconduct. Therefore, prosecutor Sepic should be charged with malfeasance in public office!
But Berrien County condones corruption as long as it is against people of color, poor whites, anyone who cannot fight back with money or power. We are living in a time where the good people are driven by the bad people, and bad people do bad things to other people. Mike Sepic does not perform well as “Minister of Justice” in corrupt Berrien County.
The Berrien County courtroom is a place where justice does not exist, where justice is not served. The Berrien County courts are crime scenes. Innocent people are being tried and convicted without any evidence to support the convictions. At one point, an innocent person or prisoner had a variety of avenues to appeal their convictions and argue their innocence. Now, those avenues have been closed by unreasonable law. The bar is set extremely high. When we argue our innocence, when the prosecutor is guilty in office of malfeasance, it is considered to be harmless error. When you do not have morals or principles, you lack integrity; in other words, you have a Berrien County justice system with prosecutor Mike Sepic who has failed as a Minister of Justice.
A new report shows that Berrien County, Michigan has the nation’s highest racial disparity in incarceration rates with Blacks in the State 12 times more likely to go to prison than whites. The report, entitled “The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons (PDF),” is compiled by The Sentencing Project, a Washington based prison reform group. 
The United States of America leads the world in mass incarceration. We are the world champion with 2.5 million men and women inside the prison walls! We are in for a rude awakening, though. It is time for the good people to confront this corrupt criminal justice. The people must say, “It is Rev. Pinkney today and me tomorrow.” Remember, together we stand, and divided we fall. Let’s stand together, all people, to fight corruption of justice! 

A Dangerous Practice that Leads to Violent Incidents

By Rev. Edward Pinkney
The Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) data show the number of prisoners housed in higher security cells in the prison system has plummeted over the last two decades while the number of prisoners kept in less expensive, low security housing units has soared. 
The Detroit Free Press reports that there were nearly 1,700 prisoners with the highest security rating in 1995. There were less than half as many inmates at that level by 2015. 
Corrections officers have said that the department is pushing down prisoners’ security classifications to save money, but spokesman Chris Gautz for MDOC Director Heidi Washington has denied that claim. Mr. Gautz says some of the classification numbers are misleading because of the way some prison bed classifications have changed. 
The MDOC Officers Union reports that pushing down security classifications is a dangerous practice that can lead to violent incidents. 
Indeed, the violence is out of control in Michigan prisons. The prison officials or guards get prisoners to beat up other prisoners. They call it “playing hide-and-seek.” There is so much violence that is completely out of control. The violence, threats, coercion, harassment, abuse, degradation, inhumane treatment, and cruel treatment continue unabated. There is much suffering in the MDOC prison system. 
The nation’s mass incarceration system hundreds of thousands of young Black men and women already entombed in the dungeons of the America gulag, and for some it might seem ironic that the only individuals who ultimately ended up indicted, prosecuted and serving long sentences, were members of the Black working class. But for those of us who live the hellish reality of life in the United States, there is no irony here, just consistency. It is what a racist, colonial state does. It is the de-historicized understanding of the role of the police and the states that shift the discourse from a critique of domination and repression as systemic to the liberal notion that the current state can actually render justice to a captive surplus population.
In the USA today, one in every 31 adults is under some form of penal control, which includes one in 11 African-American men. How did the land of the free become the house of the world’s largest prison system? I am challenging the belief that America’s prison problem originated with the Reagan administration’s “War on Drugs.” I have traced the rise of mass incarceration to an ironic source: the social welfare program of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” at the height of the civil rights era. 
The courtroom should be a place where justice is served. Today, more and more, however, courts are becoming crime scenes. Here, innocent people are kidnapped and held captive. There is no justification for the wrongdoing behind the record number of exonerations society is witnessing: 149 last year and the numbers are rising. 
There are many more examples of how the innocent suffer, from fault not of our own, due to laws being enacted to restrict our access to the courts. Until the day comes when culprits responsible for the many wrongful convictions are held fully accountable, wrongful convictions will not stop!

The Constitution Does Not Apply in Berrien County

By Rev. Edward Pinkney
We no longer have justice in Berrien County, Michigan nor is the constitution being applied in the courtroom. Today, courthouses are nothing but crime scenes where innocent people are being kidnapped and held captive. Prosecutors, like Mike Sepic, withhold exculpatory evidence of the defendants’ innocence and never turn it over. Take a look at the exoneration reported in recent years, and you will see a pattern of prosecutors continuing to fight against the release of innocent prisoners who become buried alive in these prisons under this type of corruption. Defendants are given enhanced sentences by the judges after all-white juries convict the defendants with absolutely no evidence. This is happening over and over. These judges and prosecutors are motivated by something other than the truth.
The courts in Berrien County, Michigan are horrendously corrupt. This includes judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, the county clerk, the county sheriff department, and many other Berrien County personnel. 
The Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler is required to forthwith administer to the prosecutor Mike Sepic in open court. Both Tyler and Sepic are extremely corrupt. Here is the Oath of Office officials are sworn to uphold:
I will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution
of the State of Michigan. I will maintain the respect due to the court of justice and judicial officers. I will be honestly debatable under the law of the land.
I will employ for the maintaining the causes confided to me such means, only as are consistent with truth and honor and will never seek to mislead the judges or the all-white juries by any artifice or false statement of fact or witness, unless required by justice of the cause, with which a person is charged. 
I will never reject from any consideration personal to myself the cause of the defense loss or oppressed or delay any cause for lucre or malice. 
I will, in all other respects, conduct myself personally and professionally in conformity with the high standard of conduct imposed on members of the bar as condition for the privilege to practice law in this state. 

The prosecutor is required to subscribe to such Oath of Office by signing a copy of this Oath. 
The Berrien County courthouse, judges, and prosecutors have taken an Oat to follow the constitution of the United States and the State of Michigan, but the judges and the prosecutors have failed! 
They have proven to be dishonest. Judges like Schrock, Cotter, LaSata, Schofield, and prosecutor Sepic do not uphold this Oath. Sepic is the main culprit responsible for a majority of the wrongful convictions in Berrien County. How does he sleep peacefully at night, or does he? Only a man with a soul could sleep peacefully after putting in a day’s work of corruption designed to ruin the lives of many defendants.
I would say Berrien County uses the Nuremberg defense: the defense that leaves one not liable for acts done at the request of a superior. The Berrien County judges and prosecutors are claiming they are just following orders and should not be held liable for their actions. 
Berrien County is a fascist state: a totalitarian political ideology under which all economic and social aspects of life come under rigid government control or direction, and the state interests supersede individual interests. Judge Sterling Schrock and prosecutor Mike Sepic are fascists.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A Great Read: “Soldier of Truth, The Trials of Rev. Edward Pinkney”

December 2016


Editor’s note: Phillip A. Bassett‘s new book, Soldier of Truth, is about the author’s eyewitness account of the persecution of Rev. Edward Pinkney for his leadership in a fight against the takeover of a town by a corporate giant. Purchase the book on  
“This book gave me a new perspective on what my stepfather has been called by God to do. It gave me insight on what was done, what was said, some insight on what happened in court. It also gave me insight on what happened when he first heard the voice of God. He truly has a purpose and it is bigger than Benton Harbor, MI. He’s truly a fighter and has always stood up for what was right. Many people said negative things but if these same people were to walk in his shoes and do what he’s done and continues to do, they wouldn’t last an hour let alone a day. Maybe it’s because of fear or not being people’s favorite. But I stand to say that I’m truly proud of him and all that he has accomplished and continues to accomplish! A real soldier is what he is to me! Good job Philip Bassett. This is a great read.” — Latoya Williams
“At the very heart of the story is the Whirlpool Corporation, the shaker and mover behind the courts, the police and the prosecutors. Whirlpool, with its headquarters in Benton Harbor, is in complete control of economic and political life in the county. Whirlpool’s use of the state’s Emergency Manager dictator laws to steal Benton Harbor’s assets from a jobless, impoverished town, especially the Jean Klock Park, which sits on the lakefront, in order to gentrify the town explains their need to quiet all opposition, especially Rev. Pinkney.
However, even in prison Rev. Pinkney would not remain quiet. Within a week of arriving at a Michigan prison, he organized more than two-thirds of the prison inmates in an action against “Buck Naked Fish,” the smelliest, worst item on the menu of the generally bad food served there. What was remarkable was that unity was forged across religious, ethnic and color lines among inmates who normally would be at each other’s throats. Events from Rev. Pinkney’s youth that helped mold him into a leader are also touched upon in the book, much of it, in Rev. Pinkney’s own words.” —People’s Tribune

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

“When a corporation can own a town, we’re in trouble”

Rebecca Fritz, with one of her children, is sounding the alarm about fascism. She fights poverty every day, trying to raise a family on her own. She joined the bus to Benton Harbor for the protest because she recognizes the importance of the struggle there to the overall struggle against fascism. PHOTO/DAYMONJHARTLEY.COM
Rebecca Fritz, with one of her children, sounds the alarm about fascism in a talk at a protest against land theft and repression against leaders of the people in Benton Harbor, MI, a town run by the Whirlpool Corporation. PHOTO/DAYMONJHARTLEY.COM

Editor’s note: Rebecca Fritz, with one of her children, is sounding the alarm about fascism. She fights poverty every day, trying to raise a family on her own. She joined the bus to Benton Harbor from Detroit for a protest against the PGA and the lakefront land takeover by Whirlpool, Corp., because she recognizes the importance of the struggle there to the overall struggle against fascism.
BENTON HARBOR, MI — It’s nice to see how many people showed up despite the weather. I am always pumped by everyone’s enthusiasm. Our enthusiasm and fight for what’s right is all we have. I want to say something about fascism in America. Everything is being privatized. Everything comes down to the bottom line of profit. Our children are born into this materialism and it’s difficult to get them out of it. They see what other people have and want all these material things. Everything is a commercial.
I never met Rev. Pinkney, but heard about him. I could see that this is one of the towns hardest hit by corporate fascism. When a corporation can own an entire town and do what ever they please, justice be dammed—and do it openly, not even try to hide it, and get away with it, then you know we’re in trouble.
Between the Emergency Manager system in Michigan that turns public assets over to the corporations and things going on in Flint, Detroit, and here—it’s a huge warning for everybody of things to come. Precedents set here will be going on all over the country. It’s looting in the name of legality. What’s legal is not what’s right; and sometimes what’s right is not legal. One has a responsibility to disobey unjust laws.
A lot of people don’t stand up. People are still trying to hang on to their comfort and hope things will get better and that the American Dream is still alive. But the American Dream is false. Everything is rigged. Electronic voting machines can be rigged. It’s good to see a lot of people out here trying to change things by voting. But we have to realize that maybe this voting thing isn’t all that’s needed. We have to be strong on all fronts and be adaptable and put ourselves out there in multiple avenues in order to seek justice in creative ways—because there’s a whole lot of FEMA camps waiting to be filled. I think this is the direction things are going. Now they’re talking about making prisons into communities. You are talking about a legal martial law—unannounced. You’re talking about some sneak thief bull-shit. Keep your eyes open and get people you know involved. First they ridicule you and then they attack you, and then you win.
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