There is an interesting conflict playing out on the pages of the Chicago Tribune over the coverage of killing of Adam Toledo. We previously discussed the shooting of Toledo after police responded to a shooting and the suspension of a prosecutor who noted that Toledo was armed. In a June 18 column, Tribune columnist Eric Zorn defended his coverage in April that it “was still too soon to draw conclusions.” He specifically responded to Steven Thrasher, the Daniel H. Renberg Chair of social justice in reporting at Northwestern, who trashed him for his circumspection and insisted he was excusing the murder of a child and it’s ‘never too early’ to think they are worthy of murder.” Thrasher’s view of ethical journalism was on display in Fort Lauderdale this week when its mayor declared that a tragic accident involving an elderly driver was an act of murder and terrorism by anti-LGBT forces. He also believed that it is never too soon to declare murder.
A year ago, we discussed the charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey of St. Louis after their armed standoff with protesters. I was highly skeptical of the charges brought by Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who was later removed from the case due to ethical concerns. Now, the couple has been allowed to plead to two minor misdemeanors in the conclusion of a highly politicized case.
Below is my column in USA Today on the controversy involving the acquisition of metadata evidence on members of Congress and the media in the leak investigation launched during the Trump Administration. We recently discussed the questionable reporting by the New York Times concerning the lead prosecutor, but far more serious questions remain if we are going to reach any resolution on protecting journalists, including the question of what is a journalist.
Here is the column:
There is an interesting lawsuit out of Indiana where Indianapolis Metro Police Department Officer De’Joure Mercer is suing the National Football League (NFL) for defamation after the NFL claimed that his shooting of an African American man was due to “systemic racism.” (Officer Mercer is also African American).The suspect, Dreasjon Reed, reportedly fired repeatedly at Mercer before he killed him — a shooting found to be justified by a review board. A special prosecutor also announced that a grand jury rejected any charges against Mercer.
The New York Times faced a stinging contradiction from Politico this week after it ran a story besmirching the lead prosecutor in the leak investigation launched under former Attorney General Bill Barr. The article relies on anonymous sources to claim that Assistant U.S. Attorney Osmar Benevenuto of the District of New Jersey was brought in by Barr as part of his “small circle of trusted aides officials.” In reality, it appears that Benevenuto was not initially selected by Barr and does not appear to have known him. Continue reading “Politico Fact Bombs New York Times Over Criticism of Leak Prosecutor”
There is an interesting controversy in the news related to former Daily Show “correspondent” Rob Riggle who appears to be in the midst of a divorce that makes the Depp-Heard divorce look like an amicable split. The recent reported discovery by Riggle of a surveillance camera raises some interesting criminal and tort dimensions to a divorce that seems to be snowballing out of control.
Viterbo University in Wisconsin has been the scene of protests for months over alleged hate crimes committed on campus. The police however has charged a student, Victoria Unanka, with what it says was a hoax hate crime involving the setting of a fire in her dormitory. What interested me about the case was the curious combination of criminal charges. She is being charged with both arson and “the negligent handling of burning materials.” Continue reading “Wisconsin Student Accused Of Arson In Hoax Hate Crime”
There is a free speech fight brewing in Scotland where a prominent feminist, Marion Millar, 50, has been charged with the crime of “malicious communication” due to tweets criticizing gender self-identification. We have previously discussed how feminists are being accused of hate speech and discrimination in these debates. Indeed, Millar is accused of being a “terf” (a trans-exclusionary radical feminist) by critics due to her opposition to allowing males to declare themselves to be females. She could now face two years in jail. Continue reading ““Malicious Communications”: Scottish Feminist Criminally Charged For Tweets Opposing Gender Self-Identification”
Below is my column in the Hill on the District of Columbia not only admitting that it used tear gas on June 1 last year near Lafayette Park, but also defending the use as entirely appropriate to enforce the curfew order of Mayor Muriel Bowser. The media has avoided on the story despite Bowser’s previous condemnations of the alleged use of tear gas that night by the federal agencies. (The federal agencies claimed to have use pepper balls but the affect is largely the same). Both the Bowser and Biden Administrations are seeking to dismiss the Black Lives Matter lawsuit. Yet, the host of legal experts and media who condemned the use of tear gas and the clearing of the Lafayette park area last year are entirely silent on the disclosures.
The long-awaited, though partial, release of a memorandum from the Justice Department this week left many “frustrated,” as predicted by the Washington Post, in Washington. The reason is what it did not contain. Critics had sought the memo as the “smoking gun” to show how former Attorney General Bill Barr scuttled any obstruction charges against Donald Trump. Instead, the memo showed the opposite. The staff of the OLC actually found that the allegations did not meet the standard of obstruction even without any defenses or privileges related to Trump’s office. Continue reading “Newly Released OLC Memo Shows Staff Lawyers Found No Basis For Obstruction Charges In Mueller Report”
We previously discussed how prosecutors in North Carolina, Georgia, Oregon, and other states have dismissed or downgraded many rioting cases, including cases of individuals who destroyed statues in broad daylight. Now, New Mexico District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies has announced that all of the individuals who destroyed a 152-year-old obelisk last October will be given “restorative justice” and no jail time. They will however be required to write a letter about their actions. Carmack-Altwies called the premeditated act of destruction of the obelisk a mere “political problem that got forced upon the criminal justice system.”
There is an interesting case out of Kansas where an alleged rape victim has used a 134-year-old law to seek her own grand jury after prosecutors reached a plea bargain with the alleged attacker. Madison Smith, 22, had to gather hundreds of signatures to impanel a “citizen grand jury” under Kansas law in a case that could face significant evidentiary and constitutional challenges. Continue reading “Former Bethany College Student Impanels Her Own “Citizen Grand Jury” After Prosecutors Decline Rape Case”
We have been discussed two areas of concern for free speech in the United States: the increased monitoring of social media speech as grounds of discipline and the push to criminalize speech. Both of those concerns seem to have coalesced in the arrest of a Connecticut high school student accused of posting racist comments about a classmate. The case could present an important court test for this country in resisting the criminalization of speech that we have seen in Europe. Notably, we recently discussed a major ruling out of the Fourth Circuit to overturn the conviction of a man for using a racial slur in a shoe store.
The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James has publicly released a statement that it is now pursuing a criminal rather than a purely civil investigation against the Trump Organization. The investigation is being handled in conjunction with the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The investigations appear to focus on tax and business dealings. While I have challenged claims of a long litany “slam dunk” crimes related to Russia or Ukraine (or even tweets) that legal experts declared regularly on outlets like CNN and MSNBC, I have long opposed Trump’s effort to withhold his tax records and viewed these tax and transactional crimes as the greatest threat for actual prosecution. Tax and fraud cases are easier to prosecute and more difficult to defend in court.