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NYPD disciplines officer for using chokehold

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[The video of the incident is very graphic and is included at the conclusion of this article.]

The NYPD suspended an officer without pay after a “disturbing apparent chokehold incident in Queens.”

What we know:

  • Commissioner Dermot Shea announced the disciplinary action after an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation. “While a full investigation is still underway, there is no question in my mind that this immediate action is necessary,” Shea said on Sunday.
  • The incident occurred on Sunday morning on a boardwalk in the Rockaway section of Queens. There is video footage from police body cam as well as a video shot by one of the men involved. The body cam footage released by the NYPD shows the moments before the incident. Police responded to reports of a disorderly group. The three men on camera make conversation with the officers and shout insults at them. One man says “I’ll throw sh*t in your face” and “touch any of my boys and you’ll be dead”. One of the other men is tries to de-escalate the situation.
  • On the video shot by one of the men involved, the officers are tackle a black man to the ground and arrest him. One officer has his arm around the man’s neck, clearly in a chokehold. Bystanders yell “He’s choking him”. The arrested man, whose name has not been released, was taken to a nearby hospital and suffered a laceration.
  • Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz made a statement on Sunday, saying “There must be zero tolerance for police misconduct . . . We take these allegations very seriously and an active investigation is underway.” Lori Zeno, an attorney representing the unnamed man, called for the officer who used the chokehold to be fired. She said her client faces charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing justice, and resisting arrest.
  • The New York City Council passed a package of police reforms last week, including an official ban on chokeholds. The NYPD initially banned chokeholds in 1993. A spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said “The video is very concerning, We’re glad the NYPD is immediately launching an investigation to get to the bottom of what happened.”

Police forces face heightened scrutiny following the deaths of several unarmed black people at the hands of the police, including George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and Breonna Taylor. This incident in New York is particularly concerning because former NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo killed Eric Garner with a chokehold just six years ago. Many protests around the country are calling for officials to defund or even disband the police.

GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING

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Sagar is a Digital Intern at UnmutedCo. He graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor's degree in Trumpet Performance and Economics. Sagar writes for Black News Alerts and the BNA Daily Podcast. He also produces the BossFM Morning Show.

Crime

Prosecutors Say R. Kelly Abused 17-Year-Old Boy

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Prosecutors say that former R&B singer R.Kelly abused a 17-year-old boy in 2006 after meeting him at a Chicago McDonald’s.

What We Know:

  • Lawyers claim that the singer, whose real name is Robert Kelly, initially offered to help the boy with his music career and invited him to his studio. After Kelly questioned the boy on what he would do to make it in the industry, Kelly propositioned and had sexual contact with the minor.
  • The young boy also introduced his 16 or 17-year-old male friend to Kelly; the singer eventually began a relationship with this other boy. Prosecutors allege that Kelly filmed the two minors engaging in sexual acts with others, including some of Kelly’s girlfriends, including an under-aged female.
  • In addition, when Kelly faced child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, the first boy told him he knew one of the jurors. Kelly proceeded to ask the boy to contact the juror and vouch that Kelly was a “good guy.” However, the prosecutors’ filings do not specify if the youth did so.
  • Attorneys want judges to consider hearing this evidence during Kelly’s upcoming August trial. They believe this information will show that Kelly’s actions “were not isolated events and were part of a larger pattern.”
  • The Grammy Award winner has faced scrutiny for his sexual behavior for a while. Currently, he faces charges for recruiting women and girls for sex and pornography and exercising control over them. These include child sexual exploitation, making indecent images of minors, racketeering, and obstruction of justice. According to lawyers, Kelly managed a “criminal enterprise” alongside managers, bodyguards, and other employees. These charges involve six different victims. In addition to the aforementioned sufferers, prosecutors want jurors to hear the stories of more than one dozen others who experienced sexual misconduct at the hands of Kelly.

Because of the accusations, Kelly has been in jail for two years while awaiting his day in court.

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Crime

Gender Reveal Party Couple Face Jail Time over Deadly California Wildfire

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A California couple whose gender reveal party allegedly started a deadly wildfire faces involuntary manslaughter charges and a lengthy stint in jail.

What We Know:

  • Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr and Angela Renee Jimenez set off a smoke bomb during their gender reveal party back in September 2020 in Yucaipa, California. The “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” supposedly sparked the El Dorado Fire in San Bernardino County. Survallience footage showed the family light the smoke bomb at the edge of the El Dorado Ranch Park and was seen trying to put flames out. The wildfire burned over 22,000 acres, destroyed multiple homes and properties, and lasted more than two months.
  • While trying to put out the fire, firefighter Charles Morton was killed, and many others were injured. Morton, 39, had worked as a firefighter for 18 years, 14 of them with the US Forest Service. US Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen stated that Morton was a “well-respected leader” and was always there for his crew.
  • Refugio and Angela have been charged with 30 crimes: three felony counts of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury, four felony counts of recklessly causing a fire to inhabited structures, 22 misdemeanor counts, and one felony count of involuntary manslaughter. On Tuesday, the couple pleaded not guilty.
  • During a news conference, Jason Anderson, San Bernardino County District Attorney, said that a grand jury heard 34 witnesses and saw 434 exhibits. He mentioned that the fire affected the community tremendously and that at least six different agencies “were involved in containing, extinguishing, and investigating” the wildfire.

“You’re obviously dealing with lost lives, you’re dealing with injured lives, and you’re dealing with people’s residences that were burned and their land that was burned. That encompasses a lot of, not only emotion, but damage, both financially and psychologically,” said Anderson

  • Gender reveal parties are where couples find out the gender of their baby. They could cut into a cake and see if the inside is blue for a boy or pink for a girl, pop a big balloon to see the color of the confetti, or even do a song that reveals the gender at the end. Over the years, gender reveals have gotten more elaborate and dangerous.
  • In February, a father-to-be died after the gender reveal device he was building exploded on him, and in 2017 a gender reveal party sparked a wildfire in Arizona, burning close to 47,000 acres. The expected father in that incident pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, was sentenced to five years of probation, and had to pay nearly $8.2 million in fines.

Refugio and Angela were released on their own recognizance and are set to return to court on September 15th. If found guilty, they could face up to 20 years in jail.

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Crime

First Felony Sentence for January Insurrection Handed to Florida Man

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A Florida man was the first to be convicted of a felony in relation to the riots at the US Capitol on January 6th.

What We Know:

  • Paul Hodgkins, 38, pleaded guilty to a single count of obstructing an official proceeding last month. The crane operator, along with others, breached the US Capitol at the alledged request of former President Donald Trump. The former Commander in Chief held a rally where he said dangerous rhetoric about the election being rigged. He told his supporters to go to the Capitol, where they were counting electoral votes, and urge senators to overturn the presidential election results.
  • Hodgkins was seen walking onto the Senate floor holding a red “Trump 2020” flag and wearing a Trump shirt. He went to Washington initially for the rally that was held near the White House. He stated that he had no idea that day would end with him storming the capitol and that he was caught up in “the passion of the day.”
  • The US Justice Department considered the events of Jan. 6th as “acts of domestic terrorism.” They encouraged the judge to treat Hodgkins on the same level as those who are deemed domestic terrorists. Since Hodgkins took a plea deal, the government agency asked District Judge Randolph Moss to sentence him to 1.5 years in prison. Prosecutor Mona Sedky claimed that giving Hodgkins harsh sentencing would stop future people who planned on recreating the events of that day.
  • In court on Monday, Hodgkins spoke for about 10 minutes on how “remorseful” he was and that he “regretted” his actions on that day. He believes that the riots caused great harm to the “country that he loves,” and he takes full responsibility for his part in it.
  • Although Moss considered Hodgkins’ actions “utterly unacceptable,” he didn’t believe him a threat and stated how he didn’t have any previous criminal history. Moss sentenced Hodgkins to eight months in prison, two years on probation, and ordered him to pay $2,000 in damage fees.

“Hodgkins did some very bad things that day and caused some real damage to this country, but I don’t consider him to be a threat or see him as an evil person. This is a very bad episode in his life and a very bad episode in this country … some sentences will be far higher, and some will be far lower. This is what I believe is a fair sentence,” said Moss.

  • Over 530 people have been charged since Jan. 6th, with the help of social media and surveillance cameras. Of that number, “165 accused of assaulting, resisting or impeding officers,” and over 50 charged with “using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer.” According to CNN,  20 people have already pled guilty and are awaiting their sentencing, while two charged with misdemeanors have already been sentenced: one to six months and one to three years probation.

Many charged rioters are pushing the idea of going to trial as they believe they did nothing wrong. Hodgkins walked out of court happy with the results and will be allowed to self-surrender once he is informed of where he will carry out his 8-month sentence.

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