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Judge Postpones Trial for 3 Ex-Cops Charged in Floyd’s Death

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Judge Peter Cahill announced the trial of former Minneapolis police officers Thomas Lane, J. Kueng, and Tou Thao will begin in March 2022. Their trial was initially dated August 23.

What We Know:

  • The August 23rd case would try them on charges of aiding and abetting. However, the Justice Department announced federal charges against Lane, Kueng, and Thao, claiming they violated George Floyd’s civil rights with Chauvin. He declared the federal case holds higher potential penalties. To ensure the federal case proceeds first, Cahill delayed jury selections until March 8, 2022. In addition, Cahill mentioned that starting the case later will allow coverage of Derek Chauvin’s conviction to lull.

“Bottom line, we’re not going to trial in August. We need space,” the judge said.

  • Kueng, Lane, and Thao’s defense attorneys agreed with Cahill’s decision on their behalf. However, Assistant Attorney General Matthew Frank opposed rescheduling the August date. In response, Cahill acknowledged concerns about granting them a fair trial. Furthermore, he pointed out that jury questionnaires have not been sent to potential jury members of the state’s case.
  • The federal charges accuse Kueng and Thao of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin’s hold on Floyd. They also showed “deliberate indifference” to Floyd’s pleas, alongside Officer Lane, by not providing medical care.
  • University of St. Thomas School of Law and former prosecutor Mark Osler informed ABC News the postponement implies the possibility of plea deals. He supposes this is the circumstance, as their lawyers supported pushing the trial’s date.

“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,” Osler remarked.

  • Despite the likelihood of receiving the death penalty for civil rights violations, experts believe it will not happen in this case. Osler commented that Chauvin could face life in jail if sentenced during the federal trial. Yet, he did not predict the others’ lengths. Additionally, ABC News stated that Minnesota views aiding and abetting ” the same as the underlying crime;” therefore, if Cahill convicts Lane, Kueng, and Thao, the state recommends a sentence of 12.5 years for the murder charge. The sentencing guideline also suggests 4 years for the manslaughter counts.
  • The judge and legal teams discussed worries about a confidential information leak about Chauvin’s ‘rushed plea deal‘ on Thursday. The report claims Chauvin contemplated pleading guilty to a third-degree murder charge before then-Attorney General William Barr forbade any talks of it. Cahill believed having the disclosure occur before the start of Chauvin’s trial was “egregious;” to ensure the state attorney’s team was not the breach’s source, Cahill asked them to submit affidavits.
  • Bob Paule, Thao’s attorney, filed a motion in February in which he requested an order sanctioning the state for “its role — directly or indirectly — in the leaking of highly prejudicial information related to potential plea agreements of co-defendants.” Paule petitioned that the court sanction prosecutors for not disclosing information about ” the alleged coercion of a witness.” He believes officials forced Hennepin County medical examiner, Dr. Mark Baker, to add “neck compression” to his findings. He also feels prosecutors knew about this pressure.
  • Lane’s attorney, Earl Gray, submitted a motion as well; he wants Cahill to make the state provide “all use-of-force reports” in the past 30 years where a police officer intervened verbally or physically to stop their partner from using violence on a suspect. NPR writes that Cahill may call in prosecutors and the New York Times reporter that published the article to testify on the matter during an evidentiary hearing in August.

Cahill’s position grants him the flexibility to “up or down a few years without providing an explanation.” ABC News feels he will raise the amount of time for each officer if he finds any aggravating factors as he did with Chauvin.

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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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