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Homeowner Owed Nothing After Police Destroy Property During Standoff, Court Rules

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  • In 2015, an armed shoplifting suspect barricaded himself in a stranger’s home, prompting police to use explosives to enter the home and apprehend him.
  • The house, owned by Leo Lech, was left uninhabitable and the city only offered him $5,000 for damages, which he turned down considering the house was worth about $580,000.
  • Lech sued the city and several officers for the market rate of his home, but the court sided with police, saying they acted within their right to do their job.
  • Reports say he is considering taking the case to the Supreme Court.

Court Ruling

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled Tuesday that the city of Greenwood Villiage, Colorado and its police do not have to financially compensate the owners of a home that they destroyed during a 2015 police standoff. 

In June of that year, an armed shoplifter broke into Leo Lech’s property, which he bought for his son, his son’s girlfriend, and her son.

The suspect broke into the home while attempting to flee from police and barricaded himself in the bathroom. Officers used an armored vehicle, explosives, and other tactics to force entry by breaking down walls and windows. According to the appeals court, the 19-hour standoff left ultimately left Lech’s property “uninhabitable.”

However. in their ruling, the court decided that police were acting within the scope of their powers because they were doing their job at the time.

“Because the officers damaged the Lechs’ home while attempting to apprehend a criminal suspect, the district court reasoned, their actions fell within the scope of ‘the state’s police powers and not the power of eminent domain,'” the ruling said.

Lech sued the city of Greenwood Villiage, as well as a few police officers, alleging violations of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. The Takings Clause states that private property can’t be taken for public use, without compensation.

“Under no circumstances in this country should the government be able to blow up your house and render a family homeless,” Lech told NPR. “This family was thrown out into the street without any recourse.”

The city of Greenwood Village offered him $5,000, which they say he turned down. According to The Denver Post, the house was appraised at $580,000, and insurance gave him $345,000. Lech ended up taking out a $600,000 mortgage loan to build the new house. He told NPR all he wanted out of the lawsuit was to get market value. 

“There needs to be a line drawn for what police departments can do and what they need to do to compensate citizens for this kind of damage.” he told the outlet. “I didn’t want to sue anyone for millions. I just wanted fair market value for my house.”

The City of Greenwood Village ended up defending the court’s decision Wednesday in a statement Wednesday.

“The Courts have recognized that while these types of events present difficult questions, the police should value life over property and may act pursuant to their police powers accordingly,” their statement read.

According to several reports, Lech hopes to take the case to the Supreme Court. 

Details on the Standoff

The standoff with the suspect, Robert Seacat, started after he fled a Walmart by car and was chased by officers. According to the affidavit, Seacat abandoned his vehicle and continued on foot, crossing an active highway in the process. He eventually broke into the Lech’s home in hopes of finding a new vehicle. 

The nine-year-old, whose name is redacted in the affidavit, was the only one home at the time of the break-in. He was watching YouTube videos when he heard the home alarm being activated. He saw Seacat from the top of the stairs and noticed his gun. Seacat never pointed the gun at the child and told him he meant to cause no harm and just wanted an escape vehicle. The child was able to get out of the house shortly after without injury.

Officers tried to negotiate with Seacat for several hours, but ended up having to use force. According to the ruling, police “fired several rounds of gas munition into the home, breached the home’s door with a BearCat armored vehicle” and “used explosives to create sight lines and points of entry to the home.”

When officers entered the home, Seacat fired his weapon, causing officers to retreat. They then used the BearCat vehicle to open holes into the home, allowing them to successfully apprehend and disarm Seacat, who has since been convicted on 17 felony counts and sentenced to 100 years in prison. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Denver Post) (CBS Denver)

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Derek Chauvin and 3 Others Ex-Officers Indicted on Civil Rights Charges Over George Floyd’s Death

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  • The Justice Department filed federal criminal charges Friday against Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers after a grand jury indicted them for violating the civil rights of George Floyd.
  • The indictment charges Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao for violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force. All three, as well as Thomas Lane, were also charged with failing to provide medical care to Floyd. 
  • Chauvin was additionally hit with two counts in a separate indictment, which claims he violated the civil rights of a 14-year-old boy who he allegedly held by the neck and repeatedly beat with a flashlight during a 2017 arrest.
  • Chauvin was already convicted last month of murder and manslaughter over Floyd’s death, which Kueng, Lane, and Thao were previously charged for allegedly aiding and abetting.

Former Minneapolis Officers Hit With Federal Charges

A federal grand jury indicted Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers for violating George Floyd’s civil rights during the arrest that lead to his death last summer, the Justice Department announced Friday.

Chauvin, specifically, was charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer. Ex-officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were indicted for willfully failing to intervene in Chauvin’s unreasonable use of force.

All three men, as well as former officer Thomas Lane, face charges for failing to provide medical care to Floyd, “thereby acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm to Floyd,” according to the indictment.

In a second, separate indictment, Chauvin was hit with two counts of civil rights violations related to the arrest of a 14-year-old boy in September 2017. During that incident, Chauvin allegedly held the boy by the neck and hit him with a flashlight repeatedly.

The announcement, which follows a months-long investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, comes just over two weeks after Chauvin was found guilty of three state charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

He is currently awaiting his June 25 sentencing in a maximum-security prison.

State-Level Charges

Kueng, Lane, and Thao all face state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Kueng and Lane were the first officers to responded to a call from a convenience store employee who claimed that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill. Body camera footage showed Floyd sitting in the car and Lane drawing his gun as the officers ordered him out and handcuffed him. 

Floyd can be heard pleading with the officers not to shoot him.

Shortly after, Chauvin and Thao arrived, and the footage shows Chauvin joining the other officers in their attempt to put Floyd into the back of a police car. In the struggle, the officers forced Floyd to the ground, with Chauvin kneeling on his neck while Kueng and Lane held his back and legs. 

Meanwhile, in cellphone footage taken at the scene, Thao can be seen ordering bystanders to stay away, and later preventing a Minneapolis firefighter from giving Floyd medical aid.

Their trial is set to begin in late August, and all three are free on bond. The new federal charges, however, will likely be more difficult to prove.

According to legal experts, prosecutors will have to show beyond reasonable doubt that the officers knew that they were depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights but continued to do so anyway.

The high legal standard is also hard to establish, as officers can easily claim they acted out of fear or even poor judgment.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)

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Caitlyn Jenner Says Her Friends Are Fleeing California Because of the Homeless Population

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  • California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner sparked outrage after an interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday that was filmed from her Malibu airplane hangar. 
  • “My friends are leaving California,” she said. “My hangar, the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said, ‘Where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’”
  • Many criticized Jenner for sounding out of touch and unsympathetic to real issues in California and suggested that she prioritize helping the homeless population rather than incredibly wealthy state residents.

Caitlyn Jenner’s Remarks

California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner sparked outrage on Wednesday after suggesting that wealthy people are fleeing the state because of its homeless population.

Jenner sat down for an interview in her Malibu airplane hangar with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Jenner is one of the handful of Republicans aiming to unseat current Governor Gavin Newsom in a recall election in the fall. While polls show that most Californians do not support recalling Newsom, the conservative-led movement to do so gained enough signatures to land on the ballot.

“My friends are leaving California,” Jenner claimed during the interview. “My hangar, the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said, ‘where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona, I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’” 

“I don’t want to leave,” she continued. “Either I stay and fight, or I get out of here.”

Jenner’s Remarks Prompt Backlash

Her remarks were criticized online by people who thought Jenner sounded unsympathetic and out of touch to the real issues in the state. Many found it hypocritical that Jenner has slammed Newsom for being elite but was so concerned for wealthy people who don’t like having to see unhoused residents on the street.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Ca.) called Jenner out on Twitter for seemingly fighting for a small percentage of Californians. 

Unlike you, Dems are focused on the 99% of people who don’t own planes or hangars,” he wrote. “And you know what’s going to help reduce homelessness? The #AmericanRescuePlan, which your party opposed.”

Others suggested she prioritize directly addressing the homeless situation.

“If you don’t like the homeless situation, instead of hiding in your PRIVATE PLANE HANGAR, your campaign should be about helping them,” actress Merrin Dungey said. “They don’t like their situation either. Your lifelong privilege is showing. It’s not a good color.”

Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist and reality star, is one of the most prominent transgender Americans. Because homelessness is such a common issue within the trans community, some were frustrated she was not using her campaign to fix the situation, and rather used it to complain about how it impacted her wealthy friends. 

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Politico) (Washington Post)

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Derek Chauvin Seeks New Trial In George Floyd Murder Case

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  • A lawyer for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, filed a motion Tuesday for a new trial.
  • Among other complaints about Chauvin’s conviction, the attorney cited “prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law.”
  • He also claimed the court “abused its discretion” by not granting a change of venue or sequestering the jury for the duration of the trial, arguing that publicity before and during it threatened its fairness. 
  • John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, told CNN, “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them.”

Derek Chauvin’s Attorney Files Motion for New Trial

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is officially asking for a new trial, hoping to overturn his conviction for the murder of George Floyd.

His attorney, Eric Nelson, filed court paperwork Tuesday laying out a number of errors he believes were made during Chauvin’s legal proceedings that violated his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. Nelson cited alleged issues, including, “prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law.”

The filing did not cite any specific examples of jury misconduct, but Nelson also argued that the court “abused its discretion” by not granting a change of venue or sequestering the jury for the duration of the trial.

The court proceedings took place in the same city where Floyd was killed and where protesters drew national attention by calling for justice in his name. As a result, Nelson claimed that publicity before and during the trial threatened its fairness. He also argued that a defense expert witness was intimidated after he testified, but before the jury deliberated.

His filing asks for a hearing to impeach the guilty verdict, in part, on the grounds that the 12 jurors “felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations.”

It’s unclear exactly what will come of this request, but John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, told CNN, “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them.”

For instance, a judge previously denied Chauvin’s request to move the trial in March, saying, “I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case.”

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NPR) (CBS)

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