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Justice

Biden Desired to Mark the Anniversary of George Floyd’s Death with Legislation, It will be a Discussion Instead

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Although President Joe Biden directly addressed Congress last month to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act “by the first anniversary of George Floyd’s death,” officials could not meet the deadline. Because of this, the White House discussed different options to commemorate the day.

What We Know:

  • One of the ideas included a meeting with key congressional negotiators. However, the Biden Administration scrapped the idea over concern that it might “disrupt sensitive negotiations;” lawmakers also declared they did not want to partake in the meeting.
  • Instead, Biden will host Floyd’s family at the White House. However, the Biden Administration reassured the public that the president would mainly focus on personal connection. “It is important to him to hear from them about their perspective on this moment in our history and the progress that must be made to stop the agonizing trend of people of color being killed at the hands of law enforcement and to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” an official said.
  • The House of Representatives already passed the bill. Still, the Senate halted decisions over issues like qualified immunity, blocking victims or their family members from suing law enforcement officers over civil rights violations. While both parties acknowledged they would continue working past the deadline, they vowed to find common ground.
  • In addition, the White House downplayed Biden’s disappointment. Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser, told MSNBC that despite Biden calling for its completion by May 25, “it’s better to have a meaningful bill than worry about a deadline.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki  also informed reporters last week that negotiators will keep discussing the bill and reach a mutual agreement on it because “the president wants to sign it into law.”

“We are not going to slow our efforts to get this done, but we can also be transparent about the fact that it’s going to take a little bit more time. Sometimes that happens, that’s OK,” Psaki declared.

  • Floyd’s family and their non-profit, the George Floyd Memorial Foundation, already began a series of tributes to celebrate his legacy. On Sunday, they took to the streets of Minneapolis with hundreds of people and held up signs with pictures of Floyd and other victims of police brutality. Another event, a virtual  “day of action,” encouraged advocates to organize remotely on Monday. The foundation also hosted two panels with Floyd’s family members and other activists. Tuesday will follow with a community festival and a candlelight vigil.
  • Alongside this, Floyd’s brother Terrence attended a Brooklyn gathering hosted by the Rev. Al Sharpton on Sunday. Terrence told attendees not to forget George, or other victims of racist violence, such as Breonna Taylor, Sean Bell, Ahmaud Arbery, and more.
  • The White House warned Congress of serious consequences if they extended talks too much. If the discussions take much longer, they will enter a summer when racial justice protests may continue, and midterm election politics may “increasingly loom larger.”

While there is no current expected date for the bill’s approval, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) suggested an informal deadline of two months to NBC News. “Two months from now we’ll either be done celebrating or we won’t be done at all,” he stated.

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Mississippi asks Supreme Court to Overturn Roe v. Wade Case

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Mississippi formally asked the US Supreme Court to overturn their 1973 landmark decision, Roe v. Wade.

What We Know:

  • In May, the Supreme Court announced that they would take into consideration “whether state laws that banned abortions before fetal viability were unconstitutional.” The Mississippi case of Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization prompted the justices to take a further look into Roe v. Wade. They stated that they would listen to Mississippi’s appeal during their next term. This would be the first true test of the Supreme Court, since the addition of the three conservative justices former President Donald Trump nominated, that revolves around Roe v. Wade. During his time in office, Trump declared that he was “very pro-life” and would abolish Roe v. Wade by appointing only pro-life justices.
  • In the state’s appeal in 2020, Mississippi “argued its law complied with existing precedent, and it said the court should only overturn Roe if it concluded there was no other way to uphold the state law.” On Thursday, they took back their original statement and said Roe was “egregiously wrong” in stating that abortions were constitutional rights. 

“Under the Constitution, may a State prohibit elective abortions before viability? Yes. Why? Because nothing in constitutional text, structure, history, or tradition supports a right to abortion,” said Mississippi in their opening brief. 

  • Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch believes Roe and Casey, in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, were “unprincipled decisions” that brought about damage to the country’s democratic process. She claimed that both cases have “poisoned our national discourse and plagued the law.” Fitch has pushed the notion that they place a hold on states since they have to disregard “scientific evidence” that unborn children take on their human form months before they’re able to survive outside the womb.
  • In 2018, Mississippi passed the Mississippi Gestational Age Act, which allows abortion after 15 weeks for medical emergencies and severe fetal abnormality. They do not take into consideration rape or incest under this act. Those who perform abortions outside the given guidelines would have their medical licenses either suspended or revoked and possibly have to pay a fine. Fitch believes the act will protect all “lives” involved. 
  • Gov. Tate Reeves (R-MS) agrees with Fitch in that viability needs to be taken into consideration and the Mississippi Gestational Act is the perfect way for the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade. Reeves explained to Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union, that if science has changed over the years, then the fetal viability of an unborn child has changed as well. Because of this correlation, Reeves believes we should revisit the 1973 court ruling that has caused countless pro-choice v. pro-life debates all over the country. 
  • Abortion activists called out Mississippi for being too extreme with their legal cases. Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, stated that Mississippi wants the Supreme Court to take away a woman’s right to decide what to do with her body. This move would not only affect the state of Mississippi but the entire country and future generations to come. 

“Let’s be clear, any ruling in favor of Mississippi, in this case, overturns the core holding of Roe – the right to make a decision about whether to continue a pregnancy before viability. The Court has held that the Constitution guarantees this right. If Roe falls, half the states in the country are poised to ban abortion entirely,” said Northup.

  • Other states have followed the lead of Mississippi and are pushing for the total banning of abortions. In May, Arkansas released a bill that banned abortions except those performed when the mother’s life is in danger. With this bill, those who performed illegal abortions faced a felony charge and up to 10 years in prison. This bill prompted a pro-choice protest in the state, that brought out protestors dressed in outfits inspired by the hit series and book The Handmaid’s Tale, a story that shows extreme right-wingers taking over the country and women’s rights. 
  • President Joe Biden, a devoted Catholic, has voiced his opposing views on abortions, yet, he has stated that he doesn’t plan on pushing his views onto other people. He doesn’t believe he has the right to tell women how they should control her body. Biden believes that ultimately that decision is up to “her, her doctor, and the Supreme Court.” The 46th president does not plan on getting involved in the debate, however, his viewpoints have caused Catholic bishops to question if he should be allowed to partake in Holy Communion.

There is only one licensed abortion client in Mississippi and they plan on challenging the appeal made by the state. The Supreme Court has not stated when they will hear the oral arguments for the appeal, but their new term begins in October. Many believe they will have a decision made by the summer of 2022. 

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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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Grandmother Jailed after Not Answering Her Phone During Class is Ordered Released from Prison Sentence

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Gwen Levi, a grandmother, sent back to prison after not answering her phone, can hug her love ones again as she was ordered immediate release from prison.

What We Know:

  • Levi, 76, was sent back to prison after missing a phone call from her supervisor while she was in a computer processing class. Officials noticed her ankle monitor wasn’t at her home in Baltimore, MD, and proceeded to call her multiple times. They then arrested her days later and called the incident an “escape.”
  • Levi is serving a 24-year prison sentence for conspiracy to sell at least a kilogram of heroin. She was released after 16 years as a part of former President Donald Trump’s attempt to curbed COVID-19 cases in the prison system. Close to 4,500 inmates were released under this mandate.
  • U.S. District Judge Deborah C. Chasanow granted Levi a compassionate release on Tuesday, as she is recovering from lung cancer and is considered nonviolent. Chasanow believed Levi being locked up to finish out her sentence would serve her no purpose. She stated that “during [Levi’s] incarceration, she took many courses, worked and completed drug education” and was doing “well on home confinement.” Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott released a statement showing his support of Levi’s release and believes the criminal justice system should work harder at “rehabilitating offenders for successful reentry to society.”
  • Many believed Levi’s arrest was uncalled for as she was not committing a crime. Kevin Ring, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, called Levi’s arrest shameful and that she deserved to be home with family. He stated that “it’s time for President Joe Biden’s administration to ensure that the 4,000 people on home confinement get to stay home with their families, too.”
  • Rapper Mysonne brought attention to Levi’s arrest on his Instagram page, asking his 534K followers to sign a petition to have her released. After her release, he thanked his followers for making sure Levi wasn’t forgotten.

 

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A post shared by Mysonne #Jegna (@mysonnenygeneral)

  • Before leaving office, Trump signed a memo that “freed inmates” who had sentences that would extend past the pandemic’s timeline would have to return to prison. Advocates of criminal prison reform are begging Biden to use his executive powers, revoke Trump’s “prisoner return” mandate, and let the released inmates stay on home confinement.

According to the US Department of Justice spokesman Anthony Coley, inmates whose home confinement has been revoked because of a violation can appeal it through the Administrative Remedy Program. Levi’s sentence has been reduced to time served.

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