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School Bus Driver Gets No Prison Time After Raping 14-Year Old Girl

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  • Shane M. Piche, a former school bus driver in Watertown, New York, pleaded guilty to third-degree rape in February, after raping a 14-year-old girl who he met on his bus route.
  • Piche avoided prison time during his sentencing last week.
  • Instead, he was ordered to serve 10 years of probation and will be required to register as a Level 1 sex offender.

Sentencing

A New York man who pleaded guilty to raping a 14-year old girl will serve no time in prison.

Shane M. Piche, a former Watertown City School bus driver, was sentenced to 10-years probation last Thursday, according to the Watertown Daily Times.

The 26-year-old was arrested in September of last year and was charged with second-degree rape, first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child and endangering the welfare of a child. According to local police, he met the 14-year-old victim while working as a school bus driver and later assaulted her in his home.

In February, the victim’s mother told WWNY-TV, that Piche “bought her daughter gifts and invited her and other minors to his home where he gave them alcohol.”  That same month, Piche pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of third-degree rape.

In addition to 10 years of probation, three orders of protection were also issued against him. Piche is no longer allowed to be alone with anyone under the age of 17, although there were some exceptions approved. Finally, he has also been required to register as a Level 1 sex offender and will be forced to pay $375 in court fees and a $1,000 special sex offender registration fee.

A Level 1 sex offender designation is given to individuals with a “low risk” of committing the crime a second time.

The district attorneys office had called for Pinche to be handed a Level 2 sex offender designation. This would have required his complete address to appear in the online sex offender database, according to the state.  However, Judge James McClusky said that the Level 1 title was more appropriate considering Piche had no prior arrests and only one victim was involved.

Responses

“I wish Shane Piche would have received time in jail for the harm he caused to my child,” the teen’s mother wrote in a victim impact statement, according to WWNY-TV. “He took something from my daughter she will never get back and has caused her to struggle with depression and anxiety.”

Meanwhile, Piche’s defense attorney, Eric T. Swartz, said he feels good about the judge’s decision. He also confirmed that Piche no longer works for the bus company.

“He’ll be a felon for the rest of his life,” Swartz told the local news outlet. “He’s on the sex offender registry for a long time. Maybe not the rest of his life because of the level, but this isn’t something that didn’t cause him pain. And this isn’t something that didn’t have consequences.”

See what others are saying: (Watertown Daily Times) (The Hill) (The Washington Post)

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Some Health Officials Think Protests Are Worth the Risk, Even as Cases are Expected to Spike

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Photo by Phil Roeder

  • COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are rising, and while some outlets have indicated this could be because of protests, it is too soon to tell what kind of impact these marches have had on case growth.
  • The new spikes are likely linked to cities and states reopening. Still, most health experts think that because social distancing is near impossible in protesting crowds, the country will see an increase of cases in the next few weeks tied to the protests. 
  • But that does not mean all health officials are against the protests. Many believe protesting for racial equality is worth the risk.
  • Some say that because COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black communities, the protests are especially important so people can fight against the racial injustice that caused this. 

COVID-19 Case Growth

With coronavirus cases on the rise, some have been quick to blame the recent nationwide protests in response to the murder of George Floyd. However, experts note that it’s actually too soon to tie the demonstrations as the cause of cause of the surge.

Some officials believe protest-related surges are on the way, but some still think protesting is worth the risk.

On Monday, Johns Hopkins reported over 21,188 new cases of coronavirus in one day across the United States. While this is slightly lower, though essentially on par with last week’s daily average of 21,294 cases, it is part of a general trend of daily averages increasing.

Between May 26 and May 28 the average was 19,800 new cases. This figure went up to 21,700 new cases per day between May 30 and June 1. 

While some outlets correlated this case spike with the recent protests across the country, the protests have only been going on for around a week. Experts like Mark Shrime, a public-health researcher at Harvard, told The Atlantic that while he anticipates a spike eventually, we will not see it for ten to 14 days because of COVID-19’s long incubation period.

In some places, experts are not anticipating the data on cases to reflect the protests for even longer, including Southern California, which may not see protests-related coronavirus cases in health department data for another three or four weeks. 

Ties to Stay At Home Orders Ending

Some believe that this slew of cases could likely be tied to local government’s decisions to reopen in May. Palm Beach County in Florida showed the biggest one-day increase in coronavirus cases three weeks after reopening. While the South Florida Sun Sentinel says it may be too soon to tell if that’s the cause, it does mark an increase in the average number of cases being reported.

States like Texas and Arizona have also started to end their stay at home orders and have seen resulting spikes. According to KPNX in Arizona, three weeks after their order was phased out, the state saw one of the fastest-growing caseloads in the country, with a 70% increase after things reopened. 

Some health officials, like Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School, anticipated the fact that the public would blame spikes on the protests, instead of the fact that states elected to ease lockdown restrictions. 

“What I fear will happen, particularly in those states, is that any increase in cases in the next couple of weeks will be blamed on protestors,” she told The Verge, even though, “There are multiple things happening at the same time.”

Because social distancing in these protest crowds is nearly impossible, health officials do believe a spike is coming. Many protesters are doing their best to mitigate risks by wearing masks, and spread could also be lessened because these protests are outside. Still, tight spaces and the use of tear gas, which causes coughing, could aid the virus’ ability to travel.

Why Some Health Officials Support Protests Despite Risk

Still, many health officials and activists think protesting is worth the risk. 

“I personally believe that these particular protests—which demand justice for black and brown bodies that have been brutalized by the police—are a necessary action,” Maimuna Majumder a computational epidemiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, told The Atlantic. “Structural racism has been a public-health crisis for much longer than the pandemic has.”

“The threat to Covid control from protesting outside is tiny compared to the threat to Covid control created when governments act in ways that lose community trust,” tweeted Dr. Tom Frieden. 

While the major focus of these protests is to demand justice for George Floyd and an end to police violence against Black Americans, they are also calling for an end to racial injustice of all kinds. Among the many other injustices Black Americans face includes a higher coronavirus death rate than white Americans. 

In Washington D.C., where 46% of the population is African American, they account for 75% of the district’s deaths. In Wisconsin, where less than 7% of the state’s residents are Black, they total 25% percent of the state’s deaths. Numerous other states and cities are also experiencing the same problem. 

“So many black communities are protesting because they have to,” said Doctor Mike in Wednesday video. “At a time of a pandemic, when they’re not only putting their lives on the line because of police injustice but also because of this virus. And COVID-19 has already dramatically and drastically affected communities of color disproportionately to other communities.

Impact of COVID-19 on Black Americans

Multiple factors contribute to this high death rate. African Americans are systemically under treated by the U.S. healthcare systems. Black Americans are more likely to have underlying conditions like high blood pressure, are less likely to be insured, and are more frequently denied access to testing and treatment. Throughout the pandemic, Black and Hispanic workers have also been less likely to work from home, further increasing their potential exposure to the virus. 

“Unless we are out there protesting in the streets, we can either be killed by Covid-19 just as easily as we can be killed by a cop,” Minneapolis activist Mike Griffin told Bloomberg. 

Marcus echoed the need for the protests. 

“Ultimately, these protests, if they bring us any semblance of progress in terms of structural racism — they will have had a positive impact on public health, not a negative one,” she told The Verge.

Others are still concerned about the potential consequences. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told Politico that he understands the anger behind these protests and why people are out there, but still has his fears. 

“I remain concerned about the public health consequences both of individual and institutional racism [and] people out protesting in a way that is harmful to themselves and to their communities,” Adams said. 

“There is going to be a lot to do after this, even to try and get the communities of color back to where they need to be for people to be able to recover from Covid, and for people to be able to recover from the shutdown and to be able to prosper,” he continued. 

See what others are saying: (The Atlantic) (The Verge) (Politico)

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Drew Brees Apologizes for Calling Kneeling Before the Flag “Disrespectful”

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Source: Sky Sports

  • In an interview with Yahoo Finance, New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees said he would never agree with anyone “disrespecting” the United States flag.
  • Brees’ comment was in response to a question of how he thinks the NFL should respond to players kneeling in the upcoming season.
  • Brees’ interview went viral, and he was met with a torrent of backlash from major athletes including LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers, and even his own teammates.
  • Brees originally doubled down on his comments Wednesday before ultimately issuing an apology on Thursday morning, where he said that he should do more listening and less talking.

Brees Condemns Kneeling as “Disrespectful”

New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees apologized Thursday morning for saying that he disagrees with kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest.

Brees’ apology came a day after he made his initial comments to editor Daniel Roberts with Yahoo Finance. In an interview, Robert asked Brees how he thinks the NFL will and should respond to players kneeling in the upcoming season.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said. “Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States. 

“I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War 2, one in the army and one in the marine corps. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So everytime I stand with my hand over my heart, looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about.”

Brees continued by saying that the flag symbolizes sacrifices made not only by those in the military but also by those who’ve fought for civil rights.

“Is everything right with our country right now?” he said. “No, we still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect for the flag with your hand over your heart is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better, and we are all part of the solution.”

As of Thursday morning, the clip of that portion of the interview has received over 11 millions views. 

Brees Faces Massive Backlash

Brees was hit with a torrent of backlash as his comments spread across social media. Many notable athletes accused Brees of being tone-deaf. Others asked how he could make such comments given the highly emotional nature of the current protests around the death of George Floyd. 

“WOW MAN!!,” NBA star LeBron James said. “Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of 🇺🇸 and our soldiers(men and women) who keep our land free.” 

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers also joined in on the criticism, posting an Instagram photo of himself locking arms with his teammates.

“It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag,” Rodgers said. “Not then, Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action.” 

Wednesday night, protesters in New Orleans were heard chanting, “Fuck Drew Brees.” 

One of the most emotional responses came from Brees’ teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who held back tears while explaining what has become common criticism black Americans face when deciding to kneel.

“Our communities are under siege and we need help,” Jenkins said on Instagram “And what you’re telling us is don’t ask for help that way. Ask for a different way. ‘I can’t listen to it when you ask that way.’ We’re done asking for you.”

“People who share your sentiments, who express those, and push them throughout the world—the airwaves—are the problem. And it’s unfortunate because I considered you a friend. I looked up to you. You’re somebody who I had a great deal of respect for. But sometimes you should shut the fuck up.” 

Jenkins later deleted that video, then posted another where he continued to call out Brees. In that second video, he said Brees is blinded by privilege and that even though they’re teammates, he can’t let Brees’ comments slide.

“When we step off this field, and I take my helmet off, I’m a black man walking around America, and I’m telling you that I’m dealing with these things, I’m telling my communities are dealing with these things, and your response to me is, ‘Don’t talk about that here. This is not the place.’ Drew, where is the place, Drew?”

Brees Doubles Down Before Apologizing

As many continued to call for Brees to realize that his words had hurt so many people, he decided to double down in a statement to ESPN Wednesday.

“I believe we should all stand for the national anthem and respect our country and all those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms,” he said. “That includes all those who marched for women’s suffrage in the 1920s and all those who marched in the civil rights movements and continue to march for racial equality. All of us… EVERYONE… represent that flag.”

“And I would ask anyone who has a problem with what I said to look at the way I live my life. Do I come across as someone who is not doing my absolute best to make this world a better place, to bring justice and equality to others, and hope & opportunity to those who don’t have it?”

Brees criticizing kneeling is nothing new. In fact, he’s been critical of the movement since then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand for the national anthem in 2016.

Though Brees has time and again condemned kneeling, he has also shown some level of support for the George Floyd protests, participating in movements like #BlackoutTuesday on Instagram. Still, that post was later  flooded by people critical of Brees’ Wednesday comments.

That pressure continued to build overnight until Thursday morning when Brees issued a lengthy apology on Instagram.

“In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country,” he said. “They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy.”

“I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening…and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.”

NFL’s Alleged Hypocrisy

Adjacent to Brees’ initial remarks, many have accused the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell of hypocrisy for its response to Kaepernick’s protests during the national anthem.

“The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country,” Goodall said in a statement on Saturday. “The protesters’ reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.”

“We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as a part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners.”

The statement was then condemned by a number of black activists, including Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills who said, “Save the bullshit.” 

“Shame on you,” Director Ava Duvernay said. “This is beyond hollow + disingenuous. This is a lie. Your actions show who you are. You’ve done nothing but the exact opposite of what you describe here.”

“Colin Kaepernick asked the NFL to care about the lives of black people and they banned him from their platform,” The Athletic reporter Michael-Shawn Dugar tweeted.

See what others are saying: (ESPN) (CNN) (NBC Sports)

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Two George Floyd Autopsies Conclude Homicide but for Different Reasons

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  • When charging now-former Officer Derek Chauvin Friday with the third-degree murder of George Floyd, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that Floyd had not died of asphyxiation. 
  • This report, which was preliminary, outraged many online and led to Floyd’s family pursuing a second, independent autopsy.
  • On Monday, both examinations released their findings. While both agreed Floyd died of homicide, their findings are different. 
  • Hennepin County determined Floyd died of “Cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”
  • Meanwhile, the independent autopsy concluded that Floyd died of “mechanical asphyxiation.”

First Autopsy Releases Preliminary Report

The findings of two different autopsies give conflicting explanations as to how George Floyd died, though both have concluded that his death was a homicide.

The first autopsy was performed last week following Floyd’s death. It was conducted by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office.

On Friday, prosecutors charged now-former Officer Derek Chauvin with third-degree murder. With the charging, prosecutors included findings from the office’s preliminary report, which said the autopsy “revealed no physical findings that support a diagnosis of traumatic asphyxia or strangulation. 

“Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease,” it added. “The combined effect of Mr. Floyd being restrained by the police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death.”

Still, the report notes that the incident, which resulted in Chauvin pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for at least eight minutes, was a contributing factor. 

Though the report seemingly provided insight into Floyd’s death, it failed to satisfy many people. In fact, it even seemed to stoke mounting outrage.

Others called for a second, independent autopsy, which Floyd’s family announced it would pursue soon after the preliminary autopsy went public. 

Alongside this, Floyd’s family said they were seeking to raise Chauvin’s murder charge from third- to first-degree.

First Autopsy Full Report

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office released its full report Monday, which listed Floyd’s manner of death as a homicide.

In that, the office listed Floyd’s cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

Essentially, the report indicated that Floyd’s heart stopped beating and he went into cardiac arrest.

Among the “other significant conditions” listed in the report were Floyd’s pre-existing artery and heart diseases, as well as fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use. Notably, the report doesn’t go into detail about how much of each drug was in his system or how they may have contributed to his death.

Seemingly because of the heightened tension concerning the degree Chauvin’s murder charge and whether or not Chauvin explicitly intended to kill Floyd, the office also included this statement:

“Manner of death is not a legal determination of culpability or intent, and should not be used to usurp the judicial process. Such decisions are outside the scope of the Medical Examiner’s role or authority.”

Independent Autopsy

That same day, prior to that report being released, Floyd’s family presented the findings of its second, independent autopsy.

While it also ultimately concludes that Floyd died by homicide, its reasoning was markedly different, determining that Floyd had died of “mechanical asphyxiation.” 

The autopsy was conducted by former New York City chief medical examiner Michael Baden and the University of Michigan’s Allecia Wilson. Baden previously performed autopsies on Eric Garner and Michael Brown, who both died in 2014.

In this report, Baden and Wilson determined that Floyd specifically died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure” after being pinned down by his neck and back.

Baden also said that he found hemorrhaging around Floyd’s right carotid artery that impeded blood flow to the brain.

“The compressive pressure of the neck and back are not seen at autopsy because the pressure has been released by the time the body comes to the medical examiner’s office,” Baden said in reference to why the first autopsy may not have concluded that Floyd died of asphyxia. “It can only be seen — serious compressive pressure on the neck and back can only be seen while the pressure is being applied or when, as in this instance, it is captured on video.”  

Also contrary to the results of that first autopsy, Baden said that no underlying medical condition caused or contributed to Floyd’s death and Floyd was in good health.

“Essentially, George died because he needed a breath,” Ben Crump, the family’s lawyer, said.

“For George Floyd, the ambulance was his hearse,” he added.

Crump also focused on the fact that the autopsy determined Floyd died not just from sustained pressure on the neck but also on the back. Using that as a platform, Crump further called for the arrests of the other three officers with Chauvin that day, two of which appear to be on top of or above Floyd’s back in a viral video.

In the announcement, Crump continued to call for Chauvin’s murder charge to be increased from third to first-degree murder.

For Chauvin to be charged and convicted of first-degree murder, he would have to be found guilty of not only actively trying to kill Floyd but also of pre-meditating it. Essentially, prosecutors would need to come up with evidence that Chauvin had a specific motive for killing Floyd.

Conversely, third-degree murder does not require an intent to kill. It only needs to prove that the perpetrator who caused someone’s death in a dangerous act did so “without regard for human life.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (CBS News) (CNN)

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