Connect with us

U.S.

Feds Prepare to Deploy in Chicago as Oregon AG Sues Over Civil Rights Violations, Citing Kidnapping-Style Detainments

Published

on

  • The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that the Department of Homeland Security is planning to deploy roughly 150 federal agents in Chicago, Illinois this week, though the specifics of their duties is still unknown. 
  • The move comes after federal agents were deployed in Portland, Oregon, where they continually clashed with demonstrators protesting against racial inequality and police brutality.
  • There have also been reports of unmarked police detaining people in similarly unmarked vehicles. Because of that, Oregon’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the action.

DHS Presence in Chicago 

The Department of Homeland Security is planning to send around 150 federal agents into Chicago this week, according to The Chicago Tribune.

If true, the move would follow federal agents’ presence in Portland, Oregon, a city that has been the subject of nonstop massive protests for nearly two months. Those agents were first deployed following a June 26 executive order from President Donald Trump that seeks to protect federal monuments, statues, and memorials.

In Chicago, the scope of DHS is currently unknown. According to an anonymous Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, that deployment will include ICE agents; however, that official said those agents would not be involved in immigration or deportation matters as part of the deployment. 

Like Portland, Chicago has also been a grounds for massive protests since late May when George Floyd died in police custody. It’s also possible that federal agents won’t stop with just Portland or Chicago. 

In a leaked memo dated from July 16, DHS said, “Moving forward, if this type of response is going to be the norm, specialized training and standardized equipment should be deployed to responding agencies.” 

Oregon AG Files Lawsuit Alleging Civil Rights Violations 

On Friday, the Oregon Department of Justice announced in a letter that state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum would soon be filing a lawsuit in response to accusations that people were being taken off the streets and put into vans by unmarked police officers.

The Oregon DOJ alleges that “federal authorities overstepp[ed] their powers and injur[ed] or threaten[ed] peaceful protesters on the streets of Downtown Portland.”

Later that same day, Rosenblum confirmed that she had filed that lawsuit. Notably, it was filed against a number of agencies, including DHS, Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Federal Protection Service. The lawsuit also lists 10 unidentified individuals as defendants.

“On information and belief, John Does 1-10 are employed by the United States government in a law enforcement capacity,” the lawsuit states. “They have made it impossible for them to be individually identified by carrying out law enforcement actions without wearing any identifying information, even so much as the agency that employs them.” 

Overall, Rosenblum accuses these agencies of engaging in unlawful law enforcement tactics that threaten the civil rights of people in Oregon.

“Federal law enforcement officers including John Does 1-10 have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, detain protesters, and place them into the officers’ unmarked vehicles, removing them from public without either arresting them or stating the basis for an arrest, since at least Tuesday, July 14,” the lawsuit alleges. 

Specifically, the lawsuit references Mark Pettibone, a man who spoke to The Washington Post after claiming to have been confronted by men dressed in camouflage who then pushed him into an unmarked van on July 15. Pettibone was reportedly taken to the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse where he was read his Miranda rights. 

Despite this, Pettibone has maintained that he was never told why he was arrested and that after he refused to speak to police without the presence of a lawyer, he was released without any paperwork, citation, or record of his arrest.

According to The Post, U.S. Customs and Border Protection later took responsibility for Pettibone’s detainment. 

The lawsuit goes on to allege that other citizens beside Pettibone have also been detained “without warning or explanation, without a warrant, and without providing any way to determine who is directing this action.” 

The lawsuit argues that these agencies are injuring citizens by taking away their ability to determine whether or not they’re being kidnapped or arrested. For example, if a person is kidnapped, they are legally allowed to engage in self-defense; however, if that person is arrested by police, they could be charged with resisting arrest for the same action. 

That’s why Rosenblum is asking for federal agents to be required to identify themselves and their agency before making an arrest. She is also asking for those agents to be required to give an explanation as to why they’re detaining someone for an arrest.

In addition to this lawsuit, the Oregon DOJ is also seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent federal authorities from unlawfully detaining people in the state.

Also on Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon filed a separate lawsuit against DHS and the U.S. Marshals Service in an attempt to block federal law enforcement from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists and legal observers.

“This is a fight to save our democracy,” Kelly Simon, the interim legal director of Oregon’s ACLU, said. “Under the direction of the Trump administration, federal agents are terrorizing the community, risking lives, and brutally attacking protesters demonstrating against police brutality. These federal agents must be stopped and removed from our city.”

The Legality of Federal Occupation

DHS was formed after the September 11, 2001, attacks, and since then, its job has mainly been to handle national security threats from abroad, as well as border security. Since Trump took office, it has largely carried out his immigration policies. 

However, with Portland, its presence has been more focused on law-and-order. 

For example, some of the agents deployed in Portland are part of a group known as BORTAC, Border Patrol’s equivalent of a SWAT team. Notably, it’s a highly trained group that is normally tasked with investigating drug smuggling organizations, as opposed to protesters in cities. As a result, city and state officials have raised questions about whether it’s overstepping local law enforcement.

“I don’t have authority to order federal officers to do things,” Portland’s Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said. “It does complicate things for us.”

For his part, Trump has argued that he sent in federal agents because Portland police have failed to adequately respond to the protests. Despite that, the leaked internal DHS memo from Thursday states that those federal officers haven’t been trained in riot control or mass demonstrations.

A DHS spokesperson said on Sunday that the missions of these federal agents were “aligned with their appropriate training,” and that officers received “additional training for their deployment in the city” to assist the Federal Protective Service.

Still, that hasn’t convinced Democrats. In fact, Sunday, several House Democrats penned a letter to the inspectors general of the DOJ and DHS. In it, they called for an investigation “into the use of federal law enforcement agencies by the attorney general and the acting secretary of homeland security to suppress first amendment protected activities in Washington DC, Portland and other communities across the United States.”

Since then, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has denounced the Trump administration’s use of federal agents in Portland, saying, “We cannot give up liberty for security.”

See what others are saying: (The Chicago Tribune) (The Washington Post) (AP News)

U.S.

Purdue Pharma Agrees To Plead Guilty To 3 Opioid-Related Charges in $8B Settlement, But Don’t Expect Them To Pay the Full Amount

Published

on

  • As part of a more than $8 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, Purdue Pharma will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and two counts of violating anti-kickback, or bribery, laws.
  • Because Purdue filed for bankruptcy last year, that full figure likely won’t be collected by the government.
  • Under the settlement, which will need approval in bankruptcy court, Purdue would become a public benefit corporation that is controlled by the government, with revenue from opioid sales being used to fund treatment options and programs.
  • A number of state attorneys generals and Democratic lawmakers have said the settlement does not hold Purdue or its owners fully accountable and could derail thousands of other cases against the company.
  • They have also argued that the government should “avoid having special ties to an opioid company… that caused a national crisis.”

Purdue to Plead Guilty to 3 Criminal Charges

The Justice Department announced Wednesday that Purdue Pharma has agreed to plead guilty to three criminal charges related to fueling the country’s opioid epidemic. 

Notably, those guilty pleas come as part of a massive settlement worth more than $8 billion, though Purdue will likely only pay a fraction of that amount to the government.

Purdue is the manufacturer of oxycontin, which is a powerful and addictive painkiller that’s believed to have driven the opioid crisis. Since 2000, opioid addiction and overdoses have been linked to more than 470,000 deaths. 

As part of the settlement, Purdue will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. There, it will admit that it lied to the Drug Enforcement Administration by claiming that it had maintained an effective program to avoid opioid misuse. It will also admit to reporting misleading information to the DEA in order to increase its manufacturing quotas.

While Purdue originally told the DEA that it had “robust controls” to avoid opioid misuse, according to the Justice Department, it had “disregard[ed] red flags their own systems were sending up.”

Along with that guilty plea, Purdue will also plead guilty to two anti-kickback, or bribery, related charges. In one charge, it will admit to violating federal law by paying doctors to write more opioid prescriptions. In the other, it will admit to using electronic health records software to increase opioid prescriptions.

According to a copy of the plea deal obtained by the Associated Press, Purdue “knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and abet” the distribution of opioids from doctors “without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice.”

The $8 billion in settlements will be split several different ways.

In one deal, the Sackler family — which owns Purdue — will pay $225 million to resolve civil fines. 

As part of the main deal, another $225 million will go directly to the federal government in a larger $2 billion criminal forfeiture; however, the government is actually expected to forego the rest of that figure.

In addition to that, $2.8 billion will go to resolving Purdue’s civil liability. Another $3.54 billion will go to criminal fines, but because Purdue filed bankruptcy last year, these figures also likely won’t be fully collected — largely because the government will now have to compete with other claims against Purdue in bankruptcy court.”

Purdue Will Become a “Public Benefit Company”

Since Purdue is in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings, a bankruptcy court will also need to approve the settlement.

“The agreed resolution, if approved by the courts, will require that the company be dissolved and no longer exist in its present form,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said. 

However, that doesn’t mean that Purdue’s fully gone or that it will even stop making oxycontin. In fact, as part of this settlement, the Sacklers would relinquish ownership of Purdue, and it would then transform into what’s known as a public benefit company.

Essentially, that means it would be run by the government. Under that setup, money from limited oxycontin sales, as well as from sales of several overdose-reversing medications, would be pumped back into treatment initiatives and other drug programs aimed at combating the opioid crisis.

For its part, the Justice Department has endorsed this model. 

Should Purdue Be Punished More?

There has been strong opposition to this deal, mainly from state attorneys general and Democratic members of Congress who say it doesn’t go far enough.

Those critics argue that the settlements don’t hold Purdue or the Sackler family fully accountable, especially the Sacklers since — unlike Purdue — they didn’t have to admit any wrongdoing.

“[W]hile our country continues to recover from the pain and destruction left by the Sacklers’ greed,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said, “this family has attempted to evade responsibility and lowball the millions of victims of the opioid crisis. Today’s deal doesn’t account for the hundreds of thousands of deaths or millions of addictions caused by Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family.”

“If the only practical consequence of your Department’s investigation is that a handful of billionaires are made slightly less rich, we fear that the American people will lose faith in the ability of the Department to provide accountability and equal justice under the law,” A coalition of 38 Democratic members of Congress said in a statement to Attorney General Bill Barr last week.

While this settlement doesn’t include any convictions against the Sacklers specifically, as the Justice Department noted, it also doesn’t release them from criminal liability and a separate criminal investigation is ongoing. 

Still, last week, 25 state attorneys general asked Barr not to make a deal that includes converting Purdue into a public benefit company, urging the Justice Department to “avoid having special ties to an opioid company, conflicts of interest, or mixed motives in an industry that caused a national crisis.” 

Part of their concern is that the government would essentially run this new company while also holding the original one accountable. Those attorneys general instead argued that Purdue should be run privately but with government oversight. 

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (The New York Times) (Fox Business)

Continue Reading

U.S.

Parents of 545 Children Separated at U.S. Border Still Can’t Be Found

Published

on

  • A Tuesday filing update from the ACLU and Department of Justice revealed that a Steering Committee in charge of reuniting families that were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border has not been able to find parents of 545 separated children. 
  • Efforts to reach these parents via telephone have been unsuccessful and those involved are not hopeful that will change. Two-thirds of these parents are believed to be in their respective countries of origin.
  • So far, parents for 485 kids have been reached.
  • Finding these parents is an already complicated process made even more strenuous by the coronavirus pandemic. On-the-ground searches were suspended because of COVID-19 but have now picked up in limited capacity.

Parents of 545 Children Remain Unfound

A Tuesday court filing from the U.S. Department of Justice and American Civil Liberties Union revealed that the parents of 545 children who had been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border have not been found or contacted.

Two thirds of those parents are expected to be in their respective country of origin. While there have been efforts to reach these families via phone, they have not been successful. Other efforts to reach these parents are in the works. 

Thousands of families were separated in 2018 under President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy, but a federal judge ordered that those families should be reunited. Soon after, many were, but in reality many more families had actually been separated. It was later revealed that the Trump Administration had been separating families back in 2017 under a pilot program. A court order reuniting those families was not issued until last year. 

A Steering Committee, of which the ACLU and other organizations are members, is now searching for these parents. According to the filing, the government provided a list of 1,556 children. The current focus on reaching children whose membership in this case is not contested and who have available contact information for a sponsor or parent. The Steering Committee has attempted to reach the families of all 1,030 children who fit that bill, and have successfully reached the parents, or their attorneys, for 485 kids. 

“There is so much more work to be done to find these families, Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, told NBC News, which broke the story.

“People ask when we will find all of these families, and sadly, I can’t give an answer. I just don’t know,” he continued. “But we will not stop looking until we have found every one of the families, no matter how long it takes. The tragic reality is that hundreds of parents were deported to Central America without their children, who remain here with foster families or distant relatives.”

Efforts to Find Parents

Because so much time has passed between family separation practices and today, initiatives to find those parents are difficult. They are also further complicated by the fact that during the pilot program, U.S. officials did not collect thorough information from these parents, and many were deported before courts ordered they be reunited with their kids. 

Nan Schivone, the legal director for Justice in Motion, which carries out on-the-ground searches for parents, told The Washington Post that attorneys “take the minimal, often inaccurate or out-of-date information provided by the government and do in-person investigations to find these parents.” 

Schivone said it is an “an arduous and time-consuming process on a good day.” Sometimes, these lawyers might find themselves in remote villages where outsiders are suspect and language barriers can slow down communication.

The pandemic halted these efforts as lockdowns and curfews made it impossible for Justice in Motion to look for parents abroad. Though, Tuesday’s filing revealed that “limited physical on-the-ground searches for separated parents has now resumed where possible to do so.” 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (NBC News) (Washington Post)

Continue Reading

U.S.

Scott Peterson’s Murder Convictions To Be Re-examined

Published

on

  • Scott Peterson was convicted in 2004 of murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn child.
  • He was sentenced to death for the crimes, but the California Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in August of this year after finding that the trial court improperly dismissed potential jurors. The court did, however, uphold the convictions.
  • Now, the CA Supreme Court has ordered the San Mateo County Superior Court to review the convictions and determine whether Peterson should be given a new trial on the grounds that one juror “committed prejudicial misconduct by not disclosing her prior involvement with other legal proceedings.”
  • That juror had not disclosed the fact that she was granted a restraining order in 2000 against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend for harassing her when she was pregnant.

Peterson’s Death Sentence Was Previously Overturned

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a review of Scott Peterson’s 2004 convictions for murdering his wife, Laci, and their unborn son.

Peterson was sentenced to death by lethal injection for those crimes in 2005, but in August of this year, the California Supreme Court overturned his death sentence. 

We reject Peterson’s claim that he received an unfair trial as to guilt and thus affirm his convictions for murder,“ the court said at the time. “But before the trial began, the trial court made a series of clear and significant errors in jury selection.”

As far as what errors the court is talking about, it said the trial judge wrongly discharged prospective jurors who expressed opposition to capital punishment but said they would be willing to impose it.

Court to Decide on Potential New Trial

Now, weeks later, the California Supreme Court has ordered that the case return to the San Mateo County Superior Court to determine whether Peterson should be given a new trial on the ground that a juror “committed prejudicial misconduct by not disclosing her prior involvement with other legal proceedings, including but not limited to being the victim of a crime.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, that juror had not shared the fact that she was granted a restraining order in 2000 against her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend for harassing her when she was pregnant. 

Peterson’s lawyers even say that when all potential jurors were asked whether they had ever been a victim of a crime or involved in a lawsuit, the juror said no to both questions.

They also say she was one of the two holdouts for convicting Peterson of first-degree murder for killing his unborn child, with the jury ultimately convicting Peterson of the first-degree murder of Laci and the second-degree murder of the unborn child. 

For now, it’s up to the San Mateo Court to decide what happens next, but the California Supreme Court did say that prosecutors could again seek the death penalty for Peterson at a new hearing.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Los Angeles Times) (NBC News)

Continue Reading