- Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies arrested a reporter named Josie Huang Saturday while she covered protests outside a hospital where two deputies were being treated for gunshot injuries.
- The sheriff’s department claimed Huang approached deputies without identifying herself as a reporter, but footage she took shows that they went up to her and that she identified herself as a reporter multiple times.
- The footage also shows deputies knocking her to the ground as she screamed in pain. She was charged for obstruction and was in custody for five hours.
- Many have condemned LASD for arresting a reporter doing her job and for lying about the circumstances that led to the arrest.
- However, Sheriff Villanueva defended the arrest, saying in “the heat of the moment, that’s what happened.” He also claimed she had a work I.D., not formal press credentials, and that the news agency she worked for is not a “household name.”
Deputies from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department detained reporter Josie Huang on Saturday, claiming she did not identify herself to them while covering a protest. Footage that Huang released, however, paints a much different picture of how her arrest unfolded.
Huang was outside St. Francis Medical Center in the Lynwood neighborhood of L.A. covering a press conference, held by LASD, about two deputies who were shot earlier that night. She heard a commotion and noticed a small gathering of protesters, then began to record their interactions with officers. What happened next varies, depending on whose account you read.
Early on Sunday morning, LASD tweeted a thread saying deputies dispersed a group blocking the emergency entrance and exits of the hospital. One protester refused to comply and was arrested.
“During his arrest, a struggle ensued at which time a female adult ran towards the deputies, ignored repeated commands to stay back as they struggled with the male and interfered with the arrest,” the department’s thread continued. The woman being referenced here is Huang. She and the protester were both arrested for violating obstruction laws.
(3/3) The female adult, who was later identified as a member of the press, did not identify herself as press and later admitted she did not have proper press credentials on her person. Both individuals have been arrested for 148 P.C.— LA County Sheriffs (@LASDHQ) September 13, 2020
LASD claims that Huang did not identify herself as a reporter and did not have credentials on her person. However, she posted a thread of her own later in the day which included footage she took where she can be heard identifying herself as a reporter for KPCC, L.A.’s local NPR station.
In one tweet, she says she had her press I.D. on a lanyard around her neck, which footage from ABC7 confirms. She also posted videos that she took of the protesters and said that in the beginning, no one took issue with her being there.
After the group dispersed, officers continued to follow one man. Huang says she followed from a distance and zoomed in on her phone to capture the encounter. As she approached a squad car, authorities told her to back up. She said she had nowhere to go and was quickly shoved around by officers.
The footage then showed her point of view as she was toppled to the ground, screaming in pain.
“I’m a reporter! I’m with KPCC!” she yelled. The screen eventually goes black, but she can be heard calling for help and repeating that she is a member of the press. Eventually, an officer stepped on her phone while she tells them she is hurt.
Huang wrote that she was put in a patrol car and was in custody for five hours. She says that a deputy refused to uncuff her so that she could put her mask on. She also said that they dismissed bleeding from her foot and withheld a shoe she had lost.
Huang shared another angle of what happened that was taken from across the street. It shows officers tackling her to the ground while she identifies herself and screams.
Outrage and Backlash
This incident has led to outrage from journalists and press organizations across the country. NPR, in particular, asked that the charges against Huang be dropped.
“NPR is appalled by the arrest of Josie Huang, a KPCC public radio reporter, who was performing her job last night—gathering facts to inform the American public,” it said in a statement. “The rights of journalists are protected by the First Amendment, and essential to an informed public and our Democracy.”
The Asian American Journalists Association also released a statement saying that Huang’s arrest serves as a reminder of “the risks that journalists face every day while reporting on the front lines during these uncertain times.”
“We hold LA County Sheriff’s Department accountable to provide answers for the excessive use of force in the detainment of our colleague,” AAJA added. “The Los Angeles Chapter of AAJA demands an investigation and apology for her arrest.”
The L.A. County Inspector General’s office will be investigating LASD’s conduct following the press conference and Huang’s arrest.
“What surprises me the most is that once she was identified as a reporter that they transported her, that they cited her,” Inspector General Max Huntsman told the Los Angeles Times. “Those two incidents are of concern to us because 1st Amendment rights are absolutely critical to the public’s respect of law enforcement. And so we feel that requires immediate investigation.”
On Sunday night, Kerry Carter, Captain of Century Sheriff’s Station tweeted that an investigation into the matter was underway. However, he said he could not comment further. On Monday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva defended the deputies who arrested Huang.
“Ultimately, we realize OK, she could have done things different,” he told KTLA. “[We] could’ve probably done things different. But at the heat of the moment, that’s what happened.”
He also claimed that she had on a work I.D., not press credentials, and that KPCC was “not a household name.”
Deputies Shot in Compton
Huang was at St. Francis to report on two deputies who were undergoing surgery at the hospital after being shot multiple times in Compton. Both were in critical condition at the time. While officials do not currently know what the long term impacts of their wounds will be, they are both expected to recover.
The suspect is still at large and a $100,000 reward is being offered for information that could lead to finding and arresting them. Officers have described the shooting as an ambush. A brief video shared by LASD shows the suspect running up to the officers, firing, and running away.
The shooting garnered national attention. President Donald Trump tweeted that he was sending “love and support” to the deputies’ families and praying for their recovery.
Former Vice President Joe Biden said the shooting was “unconscionable and the perpetrator must be brought to justice.”
See what others are saying: (LAist) (Los Angeles Times) (KTLA)
Miami Man Gets 6 Years in Prison After Using COVID Relief Funds To Buy Lamborghini
- A Florida man was sentenced to more than six years in prison after fraudulently obtaining $3.9 million in COVID-19 relief funds and using that money for personal purchases.
- Authorities said David Tyler Hines falsified federal applications to secure loans from the Paycheck Protection Program loans, which were meant to help small businesses struggling during the pandemic.
- After receiving the funds, Hines began blowing it on jewelry, resort stays, dating websites, and even a $318,000 Lamborghini Huracan.
Hines Defrauds Government
A man in Miami, Florida, has been sentenced to more than six years in prison this week for fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in coronavirus relief funds and using that money for personal expenses.
David Tyler Hines, 29, is accused of falsifying federal applications to secure $3.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans, which were meant to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic.
The Justice Department claims he actually requested $13.5 million in paycheck protection loans for various companies using false and fraudulent IRS forms last year. At the time, he stated the money would ensure his employees would continue to get paid throughout the state-mandated lockdowns.
According to a federal complaint, however, those employees either never existed or earned only a fraction of what he claimed to pay them.
“Collectively, Hines falsely claimed his companies paid millions of dollars in payroll the first quarter of 2020. State and bank records, however, show little to no payroll expense during this period,” the complaint adds.
Hines Makes Luxury Purchases With Funds
Authorities said that within days of securing the nearly $4 million from the federal government, Hines began blowing it on extravagant personal purchases, including jewelry, resort stays, and a $318,000 2020 Lamborghini Huracan. Two payments totaling $30,000 were also documented as going to “mom,” according to the criminal complaint, while some money also went to dating websites.
Investigators became aware of the scam after the Lamborgini was involved in a hit-and-run incident back in July. The vehicle was ultimately linked back to Hines, which kick-started the investigation.
In February, Hines pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with the scheme. As part of the sentencing, he was ordered to forfeit the $3.4 million, as well as the Lamborghini
See what others are saying: (Orlando Sentinel) (Complex) (HuffPost)
Trial for 3 Ex-Officers Charged in George Floyd Murder Pushed To March
- A Minnesota judge ruled Thursday that the August trial for three officers charged with aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd will be postponed until March 2022 so a recently filed federal case can proceed first.
- Ex-officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao were indicted on federal civil rights charges shortly after Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter by a state jury last month.
- In Thursday’s announcement, the judge also argued the postponement was necessary to create “some distance from all the press that has occurred and is going to occur this summer” regarding Chavuin’s case and upcoming sentencing.
- No date has been scheduled for the federal trial yet, and experts have said it is unclear if it will happen before March 7, the new date set for the state case.
Judge Cahill Postpones Trial
The trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged for their involvement in the murder of George Floyd will be pushed from August to March 2022, a judge ruled Thursday.
Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao were previously facing state charges of aiding and abetting manslaughter and murder, but last week, they were indicted on additional federal civil rights charges.
The federal indictment charges Kueng and Thao with willfully failing to intervene in unreasonable use of force deployed by their fellow former colleague Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter last month for kneeling on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes.
All four ex-officers 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 his decision, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill said he moved the Minnesota trial so the federal case could proceed first. Notably, Cahill also cited his desire to create more distance between the state trial and the widely publicized legal proceedings against Chauvin.
“What this trial needs is some distance from all the press that has occurred and is going to occur this summer,” he said in court on Thursday.
A date for the federal trial has not yet been scheduled, it is uncertain if it would happen before March 7, the new date set by Cahill for the state trial.
The decision to file the civil rights charges against Lane, Kueng, and Thao came as surprise to many legal experts as federal indictments are not usually brought until after state cases are concluded.
The move is also unusual because Chauvin had already been convicted of murder in Minnesota. By contrast, the federal government normally only files charges in cases where they believe justice was not served at the state level.
For example, the four officers who were accused of beating Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991 were only indicted on federal charges after they were acquitted in California.
Uncertainty Around Sentencing
Defense attorneys for Kueng, Lane, and Thao agreed with the judge’s decision, but state prosecutors did not support the delay, a fact that experts said could mean the three former officers are seeking a plea deal.
“One can infer that the defense attorneys are hoping that the federal case will offer lower penalties for their clients and a dismissal of the state charges,” Mark Osler, a former federal prosecutor told the Associated Press.
Under Minnesota law, aiding and abetting is treated the same as the underlying crime. If the ex-officers are convicted, the state’s sentencing guidelines for people without previous criminal histories would recommend prison sentences of 12 and a half years for the murder counts and four years for the manslaughter counts.
Cahill, however, has the flexibility to increase the sentences if he finds aggravating factors, as he did with Chauvin in a ruling Wednesday.
In the decision, Cahill agreed with prosecutors that Chauvin abused his power, acted “particularly cruel” to Floyd, and committed the crime in front of children with at least three other people.
Experts say the judge is likely to give Chauvin a 30-year sentence for the second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum of 40 years.
See what others are saying: (The Associated Press) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Ohio Will Give 5 People $1 Million for Getting Vaccinated
- Ohio is launching a lottery program that will give five people ages 18 or older $1 million each if they receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will win full four-year scholarships to one of the state’s public universities under a similar giveaway program.
- Some have criticized the move as a waste and misuse of federal coronavirus relief funds, but others applauded it as a strong effort to boost slumping vaccination rates.
- Gov. Mike DeWine (R) addressed critics on Twitter, writing, “The real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
Ohio Announces Vaccine Lottery
Several states and cities across the country have been rolling out different incentives to help boost COVID-19 vaccination rates. Some are offering $100 savings bonds, $50 prepaid cards, and even free alcohol, but Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine took it a step further Wednesday, saying that five people in his state will each win $1 million for getting vaccinated.
DeWine said that the lottery program, named “Ohio Vax-a-Million,” will be open to residents 18 and older who receive at least one dose. Drawings start May 26 and winners will be pulled from the state’s voter registration database.
The Ohio Lottery will conduct the drawings, but the money will come from existing federal coronavirus relief funds.
Younger people will also have a chance to win something. That’s because DeWine said five vaccinated people between 12 and 17 years old will be eligible to win a full four-year scholarship to one of the state’s public universities under a similar lottery program. The portal to sign up for that opens May 18.
DeWine Defends Lottery
Reactions to the giveaway have been mixed. Some echoed statements from State Rep. Emilia Sykes, the top House Democrat, who said, “Using millions of dollars in relief funds in a drawing is a grave misuse of money that could be going to respond to this ongoing crisis.”
DeWine, however, seems to have anticipated pushback like this.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,'” he tweeted. “But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
Despite some backlash, a ton of other people have applauded the plan as a smart way to encourage vaccinations across all age groups. So far, about 36%of Ohio’s population has been fully vaccinated — compared with 35% nationally.
Still, the number of people seeking vaccines has dropped in recent weeks, with an average of about 16,500 starting the process last week, which is down from figures above 80,000 in April.