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Crime

Judge’s Ruling Allows for Longer Sentence for Derek Chauvin in Murder of George Floyd

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Judge Peter Cahill ruled Wednesday that there were four factors in George Floyd’s killing; this allows Cahill to sentence Derek Chauvin to a longer prison sentence.

What We Know:

  • Last month, a jury convicted Chauvin of two murder counts and one manslaughter count. CNN reports Chauvin could face approximately 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, 25 for third-degree murder, and 10 for manslaughter. Since the former Minneapolis policeman has no prior criminal record, Minnesota’s guidelines recommend around 12 and a half years for each murder charge and about 4 for his manslaughter sentence.
  • State prosecutors requested a tougher sentence for Chauvin. The attorneys cited five aggravating factors in their petition. These include Chauvin abusing “a position of trust and authority,” treating Floyd with particular cruelty, having children present during the incident, committing the crime with the “active participation of at least three other people,” and Floyd being “particularly vulnerable.” Chauvin waived his right for the jury to decide aggravating factors; instead, he asked Cahill to do so.
  • Cahill agreed with the first four statements but disagreed on Floyd’s vulnerability, as Floyd initially resisted arrest and was in handcuffs during the offense. The judge stated Chauvin’s actions were “an egregious abuse of authority” because “the prolonged maneuver was employed” after Floyd was restrained. Also, Chauvin continued holding Floyd down for more than four and a half minutes after Floyd became unresponsive. Chauvin acted cruelly when Floyd begged for his life and the officer “remained indifferent,” he included.  Furthermore, Cahill mentioned four children, the youngest who was nine, witnessed the heinous offense. Finally, the official reminded the public in his writing that former Officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and Alexander Kueng also partook in the incident. However, the judge did not provide a finding as to their intent or knowledge.
  • According to CBS News, prosecutors will make a formal recommendation on the amount of time they request in the upcoming weeks. In addition, Cahill will consider the defense team’s recommendations, as well as the Department of Corrections’ pre-sentencing investigation report.
  • After making his decision, Cahill will hand down sentencing to Chauvin during the June 25 hearing. Chauvin is currently being held at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Oak Park Heights. After receiving his punishment, Chauvin will likely serve his sentences at the same time, not consecutively. Despite his conviction and Cahill’s unwavering decisions throughout the case, Chauvin is seeking a new trial.

In addition, Chauvin faces other legal issues. Recently, a federal grand jury indicted Chauvin, Thao, Lane, and Kueng connected with Floyd’s murder. The jury believes the policemen violated the victim’s constitutional rights. However, it is unclear if they will face a federal trial.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black Alerts and the host of Boss Mornings and Unmuted Nation. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

Crime

Classes canceled at Howard University as US Government investigates ransomware cyberattack

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Howard University officials along with leading cyber experts are trying to assess what has been compromised in an active ransomware, cyberattack on the HBCU campus. Officials have deemed the attack criminal.

What We Know:

  • Monday, the university issued a statement to faculty and students that “the service disruption was caused by a ransomware cyberattack against the university.”
  • Classes have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students have been notified that online and hybrid classes will remain canceled and only essential staff will be allowed on campus. All in-person undergraduate, graduate, professional, and clinical experiential courses will resume as scheduled on Wednesday.
  • A ransomware attack can be triggered by simple, everyday activity. Opening a unintended link inside of can lead to a cyberattack.  Computer, tablet and phone users are encouraged to change their passwords and security questions regularly.

Howard University is home to several notable high profile Black alumni such as Chadwick Boseman and Phylicia Rashad.

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Crime

New Orleans 911 Operator Wanted After Allegedly Disconnecting Calls on Purpose

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A New Orleans 911 operator deliberately disconnected emergency calls without obtaining necessary information or relaying the callers’ emergencies to other dispatchers, and she is now facing arrest, according to authorities.

What We Know:

  • Precious Stephens, 25, is wanted on a count of malfeasance in office, and she remained at large Thursday, police said. She has been fired from her job as a 911 operator, officials said.

“(The district) has and will continue to cooperate with the … investigation into this matter and dedicated to providing any and all assistance to aid in (the) efforts.”

  • Stephens worked for the Orleans Parish Communication District, which dispatches first responders to 911 calls. On Aug. 24, the district reported to police that Stephens had deliberately disconnected 911 calls without obtaining vital information or informing other dispatchers about the callers who were in need of help.  The district conducted an investigation into the quality of a random set of calls when they detected the problems with Stephens during her shifts Aug. 20 and Aug. 21, officials said.  A statement from the district highlighted how its own internal protocols identified the issues with Stephens, who was immediately turned over to police and dismissed from her post.

Police asked anyone who knows where Stephens is to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. Tipsters may be eligible for a cash reward.

Louisiana law defines malfeasance in office as unlawfully performing a job in public service. It can carry up to five years in prison.

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Crime

R&B Star R. Kelly Jurors Summoned for Sex Trafficking Trial

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The first phase of R. Kelly‘s trial began on Aug. 9 with a jury selection after several delays.

What We Know:

  • U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly asked potential jurors if they could keep an open mind about Kelly as he faces charges for abusing women and girls for nearly two decades. Donnelly also reminded jurors that Kelly was presumed innocent, so they should not feel influenced by any bad publicity the singer experienced because of the accusations.
  • Due to pandemic restrictions, the event took place online. Because of this, Kelly and the jurors faced difficulty popping up on the screen and the audio cut off at times.
  • During the trial, jurors will expect to hear testimonies from several of Kelly’s accusers. In addition, a judge ruled that officials may only use the women’s first names. Currently, Kelly faces sex trafficking charges. Scrutiny around Kelly’s sexual behavior has followed him for decades. These include charges for child pornography. Alongside the sex-trafficking case in New York, Kelly also faces sex-related charges against him in Illinois and Minnesota.
  • In addition, prosecutors might provide evidence that Kelly schemed with others to buy a fake ID for late R&B singer Aaliyah. In 1994, when Aaliyah was only 15, Kelly married and began a sexual relationship with her; it is also speculated he impregnated her. Prosecutors believe he married her so that she could not testify against him.
  • In regards to his sex-trafficking trial, Kelly denies any wrongdoing; he has pleaded not guilty to leading a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards, and other employees who recruited women and girls for sex. Concerning the criminal enterprise, federal prosecutors reported the group found victims at concerts and other venues. After recruiting the women and children, they would make travel arrangements so they could meet with Kelly. Kelly’s lawyers claimed the victims were “groupies” who showed up at his concerts and “were dying to be with” Kelly.

The case is scheduled to officially begin on Aug. 18 with opening statements.

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