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GoFundMe Border Wall Construction Hit With Cease and Desist

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  • The GoFundMe campaign that raised funds to build President Donald Trump’s southern border wall began construction over memorial day weekend.
  • The group behind it, We Build The Wall, said it built a half-mile-long stretch of the wall in three days.
  • On Tuesday, the group said it received a cease and desist from Sunland Park, New Mexico, where the wall is being built.
  • The city claims that the group did not receive proper permits, did not have a complete application, and was in violation of city ordinance.
  • We Build The Wall claims they have everything they need for construction.

We Build the Wall Starts Construction

We Build The Wall, a privately funded effort to construct a wall on the southern border, was hit with a cease and desist on Tuesday after completing a half-mile of construction.

In December 2018, veteran Brian Kolfage launched a GoFundMe to raise money to build a border wall after President Donald Trump’s plans saw continuous blocks. Kolfage set a goal of one billion dollars for his project.

GoFundMe ended up offering contributors a refund after Kolfage edited his fundraising pitch to say that the funds go to a nonprofit that he founded called We Build The Wall. Still, as of now, the page has raised over 23 million dollars.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the group began construction in Sunland Park, New Mexico. On Monday, Kolfage tweeted that the first segment of the wall was nearly complete, along with a video showcasing the building process.

The wall is being built on private property, which is owned by a brick company. According to We Build The Wall, the nearly half-mile stretch that has been built cost between 6 and 8 million dollars.

Former White House Strategist Steve Bannon, who is now a chairman for We Build The Wall, told CNN that this stretch is meant to connect two separate sections of existing fencing. CNN, however, says they were unable to verify this claim.

Cease and Desist Ordered

On Tuesday, We Build The Wall ran into complications with construction when the City of Sunland Park issued a cease and desist against them. The city claims that the group did not have proper permits to build and says that their construction did not comply with city ordinance.

Sunland Park’s mayor, Javier Perea said that the city was denied access to the site on Thursday. The city then received an application for the wall’s construction on Friday. However, he says those documents were not approved before building.

“The staff has been reviewing those particular documents and have determined that at this point it is incomplete,” Perea said in a press conference on Tuesday. “And that construction on the wall at this point is in violation of city ordinance.”

Mayor Perea also added that the group did not submit a site plan or survey to the city and says that this wall exceeds the six-foot limit Sunland Park allows on wall construction.

New Mexico’s Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham released a statement to the New York Times, criticizing the need for a privately-built wall.

“To act as though throwing up a small section of wall on private land does anything to effectively secure our southern border from human- and drug-trafficking or address the humanitarian needs of the asylum seekers and local communities receiving them — that’s nonsense,” she said. “It takes us farther away from where we all need to be.”

We Build the Wall Responds

We Build The Wall, however, maintains that despite Mayor Perea’s claims, they have followed city rules.  

“We Build The Wall has done everything they need to do to be in compliance with all regulations,” they said in a statement to ABC-7 in El Paso.

We’ve had members from Sunland Park city government out to inspect the site and to witness the first concrete pour. We believe this is a last ditch effort to intimidate us from completing this historic project by a local government with a long history of corruption problems.”

Kolfage also took to Twitter to express his frustrations with the cease and desist. He claimed the city had already green-lighted the project.

He then accused the city of having involvement with drug cartels, and brought up the Sunland Park’s history with corruption.

He also claimed that his legal team knew more about city ordinances than the mayor and said that the Trump Administration called The International Boundary and Water Commission to authorize building.

Meanwhile, the donations have continued to pour in. According to Kolfage, the GoFundMe page saw a million dollars in donations in just 24 hours.

Mayor Perea has addressed the accusations of local government corruption by acknowledging the city’s past.

“Yes, there was corruption in the past in the city of Sunland Park, but we maintain clean audits with the city of Sunland Park,” he said to ABC-7. “That image is a whole lot different than it was, six or seven years ago.”

Mayor Perea says that the next step is for this situation to be turned over the courts.

See what others are saying: (ABC-7) (Washington Post) (CNN)

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Flint Prosecutors Drop All Criminal Charges Against Government Officials

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  • Prosecutors in the Flint water investigation announced that they will drop all existing criminal charges regarding the Flint water crisis.
  • Prosecutors explained in a statement that they dropped the charges in order to start a new investigation.
  • They said that when they inherited the investigation from previous prosecutors, they had “immediate and grave concerns” about how it had been handled.
  • Residents of Flint, who already have little trust in the government, are upset with the decision.

Announcement

Michigan state prosecutors said Thursday that they are dropping all pending criminal charges brought against government officials involved in the Flint water crisis.

In a statement, Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who took control of the Flint investigation in January, said that they decided to drop the charges in order to launch a new, more complete investigation.

Hammoud and Worthy explained that when they took over the investigation from the previous team of prosecutors, they had “immediate and grave concerns” with how the investigation had been handled.

Contrary to accepted standards of criminal investigation and prosecution, all available evidence was not pursued,” they said in the statement.

They also said that the previous team had let law firms representing former Gov. Rick Snyder and other defendants have “a role in deciding what information would be turned over to law enforcement.”

“We cannot provide the citizens of Flint the investigation they rightly deserve by continuing to build on a flawed foundation. Dismissing these cases allows us to move forward according to the non-negotiable requirements of a thorough, methodical and ethical investigation,” they continued.

Hammoud and Worthy also added that the dismissal will not prevent them from refiling the same charges against the officials or adding more charges and new defendants in the future.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel defended the prosecutors in a separate statement.

“I want to remind the people of Flint that justice delayed is not always justice denied and a fearless and dedicated team of career prosecutors and investigators are hard at work to ensure those who harmed you are held accountable,” she said.

Flint Water Crisis

The Flint water crisis traces back to April of 2014, when a state-appointed emergency manager switched the city’s drinking water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River as part of a cost-saving effort.

However, proper precautions were not taken to prevent lead in the pipes from contaminating the clean water.

Previous coverage about the Flint water crisis.

Fifteen state and local officials involved in the oversight of Flint’s water system were charged by the Michigan attorney general’s office of crimes ranging from willful neglect of duty to involuntary manslaughter.

Seven of those accused took plea deals. Eight others, including the majority of high-ranking officials implicated in the scandal, were still waiting for trials.

Notable among those accused was Nick Lyon, the former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Lyon was charged with involuntary manslaughter for his failure to tell the public about an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease linked to bacteria in the Flint River, which resulted in the deaths of at least 12 people.

Residents Respond

While prosecutors argue that the dismissal of criminal charges is necessary to expand the investigation, many Flint residents, who already have low trust in the government but crave justice, are more skeptical.

Nayyirah Shariff, a Flint resident and the director of the grassroots group Flint Rising, told the Detroit Free Press that the announcement was “a slap in the face to Flint residents.”

“This has been bungled,” Shariff said. “I’m very disappointed with Dana Nessel’s office because she ran on a platform that she was going to provide justice for Flint residents, and it doesn’t seem like justice is coming.”

Flint resident Melissa Mays, who founded the group Water You Fighting For, also told the Detroit Free Press that she was upset the decision was made without the residents of Flint. “It’s extremely terrifying,” she said.

Now, we have people who may or may not know what is going on, all it does is reinforce that our voices mean nothing.”

Another Flint resident named Fortina Harris told CNN that he feels helpless. “We’ve been dogged out, misused, abused and we still need to pay water bills and wash our bodies,” he said.

“We don’t get any supplement. No discounts or nothing for buying water. We got to fend for our self.”

Politicians Respond

Political figures who represent Flint in various government bodies also expressed their dissatisfaction with the prosecutors’ decision. Flint City Councilwoman Monica Galloway told CNN that she was “appalled” by the move.

“The lead impact on our children hasn’t even been realized, which means that there’s many unknowns for their future. They haven’t been made whole,” she said.

“It causes me to believe that Gov. Snyder just got a get out of jail free card. The people that are responsible will be walking away free.”

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, who represents Flint, echoed the same sentiment, telling the Detroit Free Press he wants “to see people behind bars.”

“Words cannot express how disappointed I am that justice continues to be delayed and denied to the people of my city,” Ananich said. “Months of investigation have turned into years, and the only thing to show for it is a bunch of lawyers who have gotten rich off the taxpayers’ dime.”

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, however, expressed more optimism.

“We’re excited about a full investigation,” Weaver said in an interview with a local news station.

“What we deserve is a full investigation because we know what happened in Flint was criminal adn we’ve been waiting for accountability and justice.”

See what others are saying: (The Free Detroit Press) (The New York Times) (NPR)

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Deadly Memphis Shooting Prompts Protest

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  • A protest broke out in Memphis after U.S. Marshals shot and killed a 20-year-old who they claim was wanted on felony warrants.
  • The protest escalated quickly, as rocks and other objects were thrown at officers, and vehicles and property were vandalized.
  • According to Memphis Police, 25 officers were injured.
  • The city’s Mayor said that the “aggression shown towards our officers and deputies tonight was unwarranted.”
  • While a Shelby County Commissioner said, “Don’t judge Frayser without asking a community how it feels to mourn their youth over and over again.”

Marshals Kill Man in Memphis

After United States Marshals shot and killed a 20-year-old man in Memphis, protests broke out in the city, resulting in 25 officers being injured.

On Wednesday evening, officers in the U.S. Marshal Service encountered a man, who reports have identified as Brandon Webber. Officers claim the man was wanted on several felony warrants. According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the officers tried to stop him as he entered a vehicle.

In a statement, the bureau said that Webber “reportedly rammed his vehicle into the officers’ vehicles multiple times before exiting with a weapon.  The officers fired striking and killing the individual. No officers were injured.”

According to his family, who were allegedly witnesses to the shooting, Webber was shot nearly 20 times. No authorities have confirmed this.

Protests Break Out

Word of the shooting ended up spreading through the Frayser neighborhood, which is where the incident occurred. This prompted unrest in the area and led to a protest around a nearby convenience store late Wednesday night.

The protest escalated. According to reports, protesters threw rocks and other objects at police, vandalized a squad car, broke the windows of a fire station, and tore down a concrete wall. Reports also say that police used tear gas to control the crowds.

According to CNN, there were over 100 people at the protest. However, numbers from people who attended say there could have been as many as 300.

Memphis Police said that at least 25 officers were injured, as well as two journalists. According to a post that Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland made on Facebook, six people were hospitalized. However, Memphis Police tweeted that most of the injuries were minor.

Memphis Police say that three arrests were made.

Community Leaders Respond

“As I monitored tonight’s fatal shooting involving the US Marshal’s, I was proud of our first responders,” Mayor Strickland wrote on Facebook. “I’m impressed by their professionalism and incredible restraint as they endured concrete rocks being thrown at them and people spitting at them.”

“Let me be clear—the aggression shown towards our officers and deputies tonight was unwarranted,” he later added.

Memphis police director, Michael Rallings spoke to reporters in a news conference about the protests and said he did not condone the violence.

“We’ve been very supportive of protests, but we will not allow any acts of violence,” he said. “We will not allow destruction of property. We will not allow acts of vandalism to occur.”

Tami Sawyer, a Commissioner for Shelby County who is also a mayoral candidate for the City of Memphis responded to the news on Twitter, saying she attended the protests herself because she stands “with her people.”

“Every life lost should matter,” she added.

TBI is still investigating the circumstances around Webber’s death. The NAACP also said they would be monitoring the situation.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Fox 13)(Daily Memphian)

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Ex-Stanford Coach Sentenced to One Day in Prison in College Admissions Scandal

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  • A former Stanford sailing coach is now the first person to be sentenced for his participation in the massive college admission scandal.
  • John Vandemoer pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge for accepting $610,000 in bribes to recruit two applicants with no sailing experience to the school’s team.
  • However, none of the money landed directly in Vandemoer’s pockets and instead was funneled into the school’s sailing program.
  • A judge sentenced him to one day in prison, which was counted as time already served, along with two years of supervised release with six months of home detention and a $10,000 fine.

Accepting Bribes

A former Stanford University sailing coach avoided prison time on Wednesday for his role in the massive college admission scandal after a judge handed him a one day sentence, which was counted as time already served.

John Vandemoer is now the first person to be sentenced for participating in the corruption scandal that involved wealthy parents securing their child’s acceptance into top universities by falsifying documents, paying bribes, and altering SAT test scores.

Vandemoer was fired from Stanford after it learned of his participation in the scam. He then pleaded guilty in March to one count of racketeering conspiracy for accepting $610,000 in bribes to recruit two prospective students.  Neither of the students had experience in the sport and ultimately neither ended up attending Standford.

According to the judge and lawyers on both sides, the money did not ever directly hit Vandemoer’s pockets, but instead went to the school’s sailing program.

Prosecutors asked for a 13-month sentence and a year of supervised release, along with a $250,000 fine. They argued that although he did not pocket the funds, Vandemoer still benefited from the corruption.

“While the defendant did not profit financially from his crimes in a directly measurable way … his actions nonetheless enhanced his own status within the university, gave him more money to use for the sailing program he implemented, and furthered his career,” they said.

“His actions not only deceived and defrauded the university that employed him, but also validated a national cynicism over college admissions by helping wealthy and unscrupulous applicants enjoy an unjust advantage over those who either lack deep pockets or are simply unwilling to cheat to get ahead,” the federal prosecutors added.

Sentencing

U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel ultimately sided with defense lawyers who pushed for the one day sentence, which the judge dismissed as time served. Vandemoer was also ordered to two years of supervised release with six months of home detention and was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.

“From what I know about the other cases, there is an agreement that Vandemoer is probably the least culpable of all the defendants in all of these cases,” Zobel said. “All the money he got went directly to the sailing program.”

Vandemoer apologized for his actions in court, saying “I want to be seen as someone who takes responsibility for mistakes.”

“I want to tell you how I intend to live from this point forward. I will never again lose sight of my values.” Outside of court, Vandemoer added, “Mistakes are never felt by just yourself, this mistake impacted the people I love and admire in my life.”

“Stanford is a place that I love … I have brought a cloud over Stanford, the amazing students, athletes, coaches and alumni,” he continued. “I have let you down and that devastates me. I have so much respect for all of you and never wanted to let you down, but I did. I will carry this with me for the rest of my life.”

Stanford Funds

The university vowed to take a closer look at its admission’s policies in the wake of the scandal. Then this week, it said it was studying what to do with the funds that stemmed from the scam.

“We continue to be in contact with state authorities regarding the proper way to redirect to another entity the funds that were contributed to the Stanford sailing program as part of this fraud,” Stanford said.

“We are eager to complete this process and will do so as soon as we have received the necessary guidance.”

Operation Varsity Blues

Vandemoer was one of several college coaches caught up in the scandal, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” At least 50 people were charged in the federal investigation, including Desperate Housewives star  Felicity Huffman and Full House’s Lori Loughlin.

Last month, Huffman pleaded guilty to mail fraud and honest services mail fraud for paying $15,000 to get her daughter’s SAT scores boosted. She is expected to be sentenced in September.

Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were handed additional charges of money laundering in April and have both pleaded not guilty.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (FOX News) (NBC News)


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