Sunday, April 30, 2017

Unveiling the Berrien County Sheriff's Department and Court System

The probation director Jessica Holmes, 35, plead guilty in a sex case. The former coordinator of a Berrien County probation program has plead guilty to two charges of relationship with a probationer, according to her friend Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic. Sepic said Holmes plead guilty in court to delivery of a controlled substance, a felony which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and obstruction of justice, a 5-year felony. As part of the plea deal, a charge of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, a 15-year felony, was dismissed by her friend prosecutor Sepic. It is great to have a corrupt prosecutor as your friend.

Jessica Holmes entered her plea before Berrien County Trial Court Judge John Donahue and sentencing was set for 1:30 p.m. on May 1, 2017. Prosecutor Sepic, who just so happens to be Holmes' good friend, said staff in a neighboring county will write up the pre-sentencing investigation report.

Most of Berrien County's judges and other court staff disqualified themselves from involvement with the case because of their friendship with Holmes. Holmes worked in the probation program for 16 years and had been made coordinator of Swift and Sure program--a probation status in which probationers convicted of felonies are selected for a state-funded program that gives them a second chance to succeed on a local probation term and avoid going to prison.

A county worker by law cannot have a sexual relationship with a probationer. Holmes was having an affair with a probationer. When Holmes was arrested last year, it was alleged that she had developed a relationship with a Swift and Sure probationer, after the July 11 deadly shooting at the Berrien County courthouse. Sepic said Holmes met the probationer that day in a courtroom, near where the fatal shooting of two court officers took place, and the two developed a personal relationship.

It was alleged that Holmes provided the probationer with a controlled substance, Norce, to sell on her behalf, that she had a sexual relationship with him, and that she provided him with confidential scheduling information regarding when he would be drug and alcohol tested for the Swift and Sure program.

This is just one of many cases about Berrien County's corrupt court system. The Berrien County shoplifting Sheriff's deputy, the county commissioner who stole almost a million dollars, the sexual attacks by members of the Sheriff's department, judges given breaks. When does the corruption stop? We must confront this corrupt system at all costs.

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

No Medical Care for Diabetic Prisoners in Michigan!

Chronic diseases are becoming a more important overall problem of health care inside the prison system, undergoing demographic aging, but Michigan mass incarceration policies have concentrated on contributing to the health care problem in the Michigan prison system, not solving them.

These problems are compounded by a life that is far more sedentary than it may have been in the past, which leads to other chronic diseases of the heart, lungs, and kidneys, including diabetes and cancer.

From a medical management perspective, the prison regime is even more problematic for combating chronic disease than infectious disease. A very different set of strategies and technologies are necessary to combat chronic disease. When infectious disease responds to medicine, it is fairly cheap to treat with antibiotics and better hygiene.

The cost curves of chronic illness: The only sustainable economic model requires meticulous management and routine care needs. Diabetes, for example, requires measurement of blood sugar throughout the day and every day, adjusting blood sugar and food intake along with insulin in some cases. Michigan Department of Corrections refuses to monitor a prisoner's blood sugar levels. Failure to provide this monitoring results in escalating damage to hands and feet, as well as to the kidney and degradation of kidney function and permanent kidney damage.

Michigan Department of Corrections' inability to monitor and track prisoners individually in real time is an inherent flaw undermining the prisoners' health. A public inquiry found that Michigan cannot give constitutional medical care to its prison population because its officials don't care and can't even imagine caring. The prison officials are unable to function effectively and suffer lack of will with respect to prisoner medical care. Michigan prison leadership is not just incompetent at medical care. It has established a penal logic antithetical to it. This leadership gap runs through all the other problems confronting health care delivery in the state of Michigan prisons and is the major factor in most critical poor medical care.

Shockingly and tellingly, the state of Michigan never disputed the main claims that the medical care was horrible. Since Michigan has thousands of prisoners serving life or very long terms, the proportion of inmates who are elderly will continue to grow. Nearly 1,700 people are in prison beds reserved for people needing geriatric care, dialysis, or other forms of chronic medical care.

The torture inside Michigan Department of Corrections medical care must be confronted at all costs, for the prisoners. We must stand together and confront the Michigan Department of Corrections.

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer

The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer

“Well, sometimes the impossible takes a little longer”, remarked Lynne Stewart, December 31, 2014, on her arrival in New York, released from federal prison in Texas, after a vigorous family and internationally driven campaign on her behalf. (She was suffering from advanced cancer.)
Stewart lived three more years, nearby her family, always with a smile for visitors. This was the woman who dared this mild rebuke to her sentencing judge: “I do not intend to go gentle into that good night” she told him.
Last Saturday, almost 500 friends and admirers of the brave lawyer who had the courage to challenge U.S. Homeland’s chief John Ashcroft fifteen years ago, gathered to celebrate a remarkable and honorable life.
April 22nd, the same day when tens of thousands were gathering in cities across the country to support our scientific community under threat by Trump administration budget cuts, one is struck by the contrast with those memorializing this “people’s lawyer”.
That modest assembly in a quiet corner of New York, the city where she grew up and where Stewart worked all her life, represented a revolutionary era whose very place in U.S. history is dangerously marginal. Moreover, that history is barely recognized by the rather belated post-November 8th arousal—the new liberal movement– now gathering with its multitude of committees, mass parades and lefty celebrity speeches: part of Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution. Fine. But a far cry from what Lynne Stewart’s celebrants represent.
Unarguably America needs organized massive resistance to threats posed by the current administration; push back is essential on all fronts: healthcare, the arts, environmental protections, bank regulation, civic rights, and on and on. One hopes that the thousands of communities mobilizing nationwide, from villages to city centers and suburbs will– after the committees are settled, the speeches made, the funds raised, the petitions signed– act. They have organizing tools unavailable in past revolutions. Digital platforms flowing into every hand can inform with virtual velocity; Google maps assure you that your small effort is fed into a nationwide net of tens of thousands; you are not alone. Leaders can materialize in weeks with Twitter and Facebook skills at their command, cameras everywhere recording their emergence. Film celebrities join in, drawing even greater numbers to the effort. These are essentially what we have, and they may indeed be what are appropriate at a time when representatives of our police state are more numerous and more heavily armed, endowed with more authority and less tolerance.
Those gathered to remember Lynne Stewart last week were authentic, tried revolutionaries: poets Nat Turner and Amina Baraka; former political prisoners, attorneys who had stepped forward to defend unpopular characters, teachers, organizers in solidarity with Cuba and Palestinian statehood from the 1960s to today; Vietnam war veterans and the unjustly imprisoned; defiant elected representatives from New Jersey and Brooklyn; the journalist and theologian Chris Hedges  who refuses to join the liberal voice that claims it is the rightful alternative to the Republican party.
Each woman and man reminded us what makes a revolution. Each invoked the grass roots experience of Stewart, a librarian and teacher who turned to law in order to fight injustices she witnessed in the lives of her students. Eventually she took on the case of Muslims wrongly accused in the early 1990s when the government was using secret evidence to illegally charge and convict. Where other attorneys shied away from representing terror suspects, Lynne Stewart remained committed. There was some success when the government was eventually prevented from further use of secret evidence.
Then came the 9/11 attacks, and everything changed. Only Stewart insisted on defending attorney-client privilege (a right the government suspended). She had to be stopped. And they had to put Stewart, at the age of 73, in jail to do so.
As Brooklyn assemblyman Charles Barron reminded us on Saturday, “Lynne was a sweet person.” Even as she presented her cases and spoke to the media, she was always mild and respectful, always witty and bright-eyed. It’s not simply that she’s missed. We need to believe others as courageous and well equipped as Stewart was can come to our aid today.
Barbara Nimri Aziz is a New York based anthropologist and journalist. Find her work at She was a longtime producer at Pacifica-WBAI Radio in NY.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Back Down Memory Lane: Happy Birthday, Dorothy Pinkney!

Today, April 24, is a very special day. This is Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney's birthday. We are asking everyone to join in this celebration of a courageous Black woman who has steadfastly supported her husband, Reverend Pinkney, in his efforts for justice and demanding accountability of the politicians in Benton Harbor and the State of Michigan.

Rev. Pinkney and others have spoken out about the takeover by Whirlpool Corporation and Harbor Shores, part of the conglomerate of Whirlpool--a manufacturing company that makes 21 billion dollars a year globally. Whirlpool with their corporate greed took over Benton Harbor to turn this poor, 90 percent impoverished Black town into a goldmine for the rich.

Rev. Pinkney was a threat to the forces that be. Corporate takeover is common across this country with the help of crooked politicians lobbying for the interest of the billionaires to keep their wealth, and not giving back to the community. Whirlpool is not providing jobs for communities that need them so desperately, and withholds revenue they would owe if they paid taxes. In 2013, Mayor James Hightower of Benton Harbor supported the corporation in not paying taxes, and shifted the tax burden on the poorest of citizens. Rev. Pinkney and others decided to fight back and demanded Mayor James Hightower be recalled. In 2013, the wheels were set in motion to start a campaign to remove Hightower from office.

On April 24, 2014, Dorothy Pinkney's birthday, they went out celebrating. It was a joyous occasion for this happy couple until they got word through numerous telephone calls from residents that a S.W.A.T. team surrounded their home. The Sheriff's Department, along with other law enforcement agencies, blocked the street as if a murderer was on the loose. They were ready to kill Rev. Pinkney! How dare he go against their puppet for Whirlpool, James Hightower. No, those white racists weren't going to have that.

Yes, today is Mrs. Pinkney's birthday--the other half that drives a man to greatness. Mrs. Dorothy Pinkney, a strong Black woman of faith and a prayerful activist, continues to support her husband. Yes, Rev. Pinkney's slave chains will soon be broken, and Rev. Pinkney will be reunited with the love of his life. Together they stand in the quest for justice for all, the struggle is one.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Pinkney, a Black Nubian Queen, a well-deserved celebration. Love and peace in the fight for equality.

Rev. Pinkney was charged and convicted with no evidence of election fraud and sentenced by Judge Sterling Schrock to 2-1/2 years to 10 years in prison in December 2014.

The Blindfolded Lady with the Balance Scales of Justice Does Not Exist in Berrien County's Sheriff's Department

The corruption continues in Berrien county. County Commissioner Robert Wooley stole almost a million dollars from the senior citizens and received a slap on the wrist. Then there's the murder of Martell Hadley by the Berrien County Sheriff's Department. The sex to play by the Berrien County Sheriff's office. The falsifying of evidence, lying on the stand--the list goes on and on.

A Berrien County Sheriff Department Lieutenant, Trent Babcock, a known racist, is on administrative leave after pleading guilty to charges related to shoplifting groceries from the Niles Wal-Mart. Lt. Trent Babcock, 41 year old of Walling LAne in Niles, is an 18-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department and is assigned to the Niles Township substation. Lt. Babcock pleaded guilty to a reduced charge, a misdemeanor charge of third degree retail fraud Friday in Berrien County corrupt trial court and was ordered to pay only $435 in fines and costs by the judge and prosecutor.

Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey said that he placed Babcock on administrative leave with pay. A paid vacation. He said Babcock will remain on paid vacation until an internal investigation is complete.

The police report of the incident indicates that a Wal-Mart store video from Feb. 7 showed Babcock loading up a shopping cart with groceries. Lt. Babcock then placed the items in a blue plastic tote and other groceries in two black bags, all while still in the store. Lt. Babcock, obviously this is not the first time. Babcock is then seen exiting through a closed checkout lane and leaving the store without paying for the items. Lt. Babcock was confronted by a Wal-Mart asset protection manager the very next day and admitted to taking the items, after it was revealed a video of him was on record, according to the report.

The value of the groceries taken was put at $184. Of that amount, Lt. Babcock returned $172 worth of groceries on Feb. 8, turning the stolen items over to his good friend Det. Lt. Greg Sanders of the Berrien County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Paul Bailey, who has a long history of corruption, said the investigation of the criminal case was conducted by an Allegan County Sheriff's Department Detective. Berrien County Prosecutor Mike Sepic said his office handled the case and did not send out the case to another county, because Babcock was his friend who he had worked with for many years. There was a conflict of interest. The Berrien County trial court along with prosecutor Mike Sepic take care of their friends. We must confront the corruption inside Berrien County!

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Taxpayer's Dollars Misused by Whirlpool Corporation and Berrien County Commissioners

One Berrien County commissioner, Debra Panozzo, was in office when Whirlpool Corp. was given $1 million, part of which the federal government wants back. The residents said at a meeting that Whirlpool should be told to repay the money rather than having the taxpayers pay the money that Whirlpool received from the Berrien County commissioners.

Berrien County commissioner Panozzo said: I wish I knew then what I know now.

Debra, you did know, you just got caught. You should go to prison.

Panozo said she doesn't remember being as prepared on the issue of the taxpayer money as she is now. The Berrien County commissioners voted 10-0 to repay the money that was given to Whirlpool Corp. in violation of federal laws.

The agency explained that the grant was for loans that were to be paid back, not a forgiven or a forgiveable loan provided to Whirlpool. By not getting the money returned, Berrien County officials depleted their revolving loan fund, the letter from the federal government stated.

The loan exceeded the maximum $200,000 allowed. The federal government further said it was used for Whirlpool Corp. and it was also used to lure jobs from Ohio to Michigan, another violation of the law. A $75,000 loan given in 2004 to Harbor Town, which is part of Whirlpool Corp., was used for residential development when the grant money should have been used for manufacturing. This was against the federal law.

The Lincoln Township residents should stand up and have the Berrien County commissioners held accountable for their actions.

If the loan was illegal, the matter should be investigated by the federal government. The county should have a legal obligation to force Whirlpool Corp. to return the illegally transferred money. It has a moral obligation to do so.

Berrien County commissioners represent the taxpayer, not Whirlpool Corp. The taxpayers need the money to repair roads, schools, and provide better service for the residents.

Whirlpool Corp. is protected by the United States Representative Fred Upton. It is okay for the Berrien County commissioners and Whirlpool Corp., along with Harbor Shores, to break the law and misuse taxpayer money.

The question is how long the Berrien County commissioners and Whirlpool Corp. and others have been misusing taxpayer monies. The Herald Palladium newspaper has protected Berrien County commisioners and Whirlpool Corp. Fascism is here.

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Brokenness but still winning the war

Brokenness but still winning the war

Rev. Edward Pinkney and his wife Dorothy outside the courthouse in St. Joseph, MI. In spite of the severe punishment handed down by the government to Rev. Pinkney for his leadership in his community’s fight against Whirlpool/corporate power, he continues the fight for a better future for all of America.

BROOKS FREMONT CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, MI — I read Bryan Stevenson’s book, “Just Mercy,” and the story seems very similar to mine. I would like to quote you from his book. “My main years of struggling against inequality, abusive power, poverty, oppression and injustice has finally revealed something to me about myself.  Being close to suffering death [and the cruel and unusual punishment inside the prison system] did not just illuminate the brokenness of others in a moment of anguish and heartbreak. It also exposed my own brokenness. You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression or injustice and not be broken by it. . . We are all broken by something; we have all hurt someone and have been hurt. We all share the conditions of brokenness even if our brokenness is not equivalent. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken nature and the compassion that remains . . . Or we can deny our brokenness, our compassion and, as a result, deny our own humanity.”
I definitely wanted mercy for the residents of Benton Harbor, MI, and would have done anything to create justice for my fellow brothers and sisters, Black, White Brown, Red, Yellow and all others. I cannot pretend that the people’s struggle was disconnected from my own. We have choices. We all owe the people who have fought inequality and oppression and for justice.
I have been threatened, terrorized, wrongly accused wrongly, condemned, but I never gave up. I survived the humiliation of three trials and several different charges against me. I survived two guilty verdicts and several wrongful condemnations by the State of Michigan, and while I didn’t survive without injury or trauma, I still came out with my dignity.
I told people that I have overcome what fear, ignorance and bigotry and oppression has done to me. I stood strong in the face of injustice; this made the rest of us a little safer, slightly more protected from the abuse of power oppression and the false accusation that almost killed me.
I suggest to my friends and family that my strength, resistance and perseverance were a victory worth celebrating, an occasion to be remembered. The establishment tortured me but I am still standing. The establishment lied on me but I am still standing. The establishment sent me to prison with absolutely no evidence to convict but I am still standing. The establishment gave me 30 months, which would be a death penalty for a 66-year-old man, but I am still standing. The all white jury was motivated by something other than the truth but I am still standing.
Let’s make this struggle a victory for us all who in the struggle against the oppressor, and the corrupt criminal justice system, in every town and city in America.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

The Residents of Benton Harbor Want Just Mercy!

The courtroom is a place where justice is supposed to be served, more and more, however Berrien County courtrooms are becoming crime scenes. Innocent people are being kidnapped and held captive. The hypocrisy of Berrien County has no limits. The blindfolded lady with the balanced scales of justice no longer exists in Berrien County courtroom.

In Benton Harbor on Feb. 28, 2017, many people at the forum billed as an explanation of how criminal cases get charged proved to be more concerned about the injustices in the Berrien County court system.

A member from the audience told the prosecutor Mike Sepic, who has a history of corruption: You cannot sit here and tell us that if a kid from St. Joseph and a kid from Benton Harbor commit the very same crime, the kid from St. Joseph won't get a lighter sentence. The prosecutor Mike Sepic said he would need to know what cases the man was talking about before he could comment on them. It is so many cases--over fifty. It is so hard to count them all.

In Judge Sterling Schrock's courtroom a few years ago, a white 16 year old boy told his group of friends he was going into his house to kill his stepfather and he beat him to death. The white boy was given probation. A black kid under 17 years of age hit a white person with a pipe once and the person died. The black boy was given life without the possibility of parole, plus another 15 years. The judge Sterling Schrock stated that prison would do the white kid no good. He murdered his stepfather. But life without parole, plus 15 years, would be ok for the black kid. Both were sentenced on the same day, both under 17 years old.

Prosecutor Mike Sepic said it is the judges who impose the sentence, not the prosecutor. Prosecutor Mike Sepic is the prosecutor who was on most of the cases that we are talking about. The prosecutor recommends the sentence and the judge upholds it.

After the forum ALPACT member Lisa Peeples Hurst said the meeting opened a dialogue that needs to be continued. We need to have discussions about those instances where citizens or most of the community feel like there is a disparity in sentencing in charges and in all of those things related to criminal cases. Hurst said: Several people asked Sepic about the percentage of people from the 49022 zip code in the court system versus the rest of Berrien County. That zip code covers Benton Harbor and Benton Township, along with part of Sodus and St. Joseph Township. I think that people are really asking about citizens in Benton Harbor. Is there disparity between Benton Harbor citizens and other folks in the county, and I think that's a valid question. She continued: Many people believe that people of color receive harsher treatment from law enforcement and the court system than white people.

Injustice is easy not to notice when it affects people different from ourselves that helps explain the obliviousness of our generation to inequity today in Berrien County's courtroom. We need to wake up and start investigating the corrupt criminal justice system.

-Rev. Edward Pinkney

Monday, April 03, 2017

US Rep. Fred Upton Saved Whirlpool and Berrien County Commissioners from Jail!

Berrien County officials may be downplaying their misuse of $685,000 in federal revolving loan funds, but the residents of Berrien County should be outraged, sick, and tired of the help that the county gives to Whirlpool at the expense of the taxpayer.

The Federal Economic Development Administration had given the county money to use in a revolving loan fund to help local businesses. The money, of course, came with clearly defined rules on how it should be used, among them:

  • The loans should be repaid so that the money could later be loaned to other businesses--thus, the name revolving. 
  • Loans should never be given to lure jobs from one state to another.
  • The loan to an individual business should never exceed $200,000, but Whirlpool Corp. received $610,000.
The county violated three laws, in a $610,000 loan to a company, Whirlpool Corp., that did not need the money, and violated two more laws in a $75,000 loan to the Harbor Town housing redevelopment with the Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course. The money to Whirlpool Corp. and Harbor Town broke federal laws in reference to the loan money.

The county agreed to forgive both loans and they became grants, depleting the revolving loan fund and depriving future businesses the opportunity to receive low-interest loans for economic development. Yet the county gave loans to a multi-billion dollar corporation, Whirlpool, and to Harbor Town.

It took a number of years for the federal government to catch Berrien County and Whirlpool. The federal government discovered the county's revolving loan fund no longer existed, and it insisted the county pay the money back.

Somebody should go to jail! The scope of the county's violations of the federal loan law states either a bold, deliberate act or gross negligence.

Berrien County believes that they are above the law. I am very disappointed that Berrien County still believes today that the law is not for them, but only for Benton Harbor residents.

It seems county officials are not sorry that the county violated the federal law. They are just sorry the county got caught, because they believed they had US Representative and heir to Whirlpool, Fred Upton, on their side.

This is a terrible message coming from government officials, who certainly expect citizens and county employees to follow the law, rules, and ordinances they enact.

My complaint is the county helped Whirlpool, a company that did not need help. The Berrien County officials should not try to defend it. And you should give the taxpayers a complete history of the Federal Economic Development Act taxpayer dollars. We must confront them. Let's take control of this country away from the corporations and build a society where the people, not the corporations, make the decisions.

-Rev. Edward Pinkney