Thursday, January 30, 2014

“JCAL Blasts DA Ravitch and the SR Police Department’s Total Lack of Transparency in Deputy Gelhaus Shooting Investigation”

Justice for Andy Lopez Cruz! [link]

2014-01-30 from “Justice Coalition for Andy Lopez (JCAL)” [] :
Wednesday night, January 29, JCAL unanimously condemned the press release issued by Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch earlier that day. In what increasingly appears to be a concerted whitewash of the Oct. 22nd shooting of13-year old Andy Lopez by Deputy Sheriff Erick Gelhaus, DA Jill Ravitch and the Santa Rosa Police Department (SRPD) continued to maintain an impenetrable cloak of silence blanketing the “Investigative Report” into Deputy Gelhaus’ murder of toy gun touting Andy Lopez.
TheDA’s press release failed to mention a single word as to the actual findings of SRPD’s Report. While DA Ravitch praised the SRPD for its “thorough review” of the Oct. 22nd shooting of Andy, the press release dodged the essential issue – the finding of the Report as to criminal liability by Deputy Gelhaus. After over 3 months, the public demands to know the results of theInvestigative Report, but mum is the word.
“The impenetrable code of silence surrounding the SRPD’s Investigative Report is precisely what we have both feared and predicted,” said JCAL attorney Jonathan Melrod. “JCAL has maintained from the outset of the Investigation that the SRPD is incapable of conducting an unbiased, transparent review of Deputy Gelhaus’ shooting of Andy. By not releasing a single detail the Report amounts to a continued whitewash of this wanton, brutal murder of a young Latino boy in the Moorland community.”
JCAL organizer Mary Moore agreed. "We have maintained even before Andy's killing that Sonoma County needs an independent eye looking at ongoing law enforcement issues in our community as this issue has a long history. In 1998, after a spate of police related deaths of civilians we were able to get the US Civil Rights Commission up here for hearings. Their report, issued in 2000 sided with the community concerns and made several recommendations which have been ignored since then" she said. "Independent oversight is desperately needed and that does not mean one local law enforcement group investigating another".
DA Ravitch went on to lay groundwork for not issuing her finding as to whether Deputy Gelhaus “violated criminal law” within the 90-day period allotted to her office to make a final decision. “I caution the public to remember that this timeline is not a legal requirement but a recommendation,” said DA Ravitch. Pushing her decision past the 90-day mark allows the DA to remain silent until after Election Day June 3d. JCAL dismisses talk of exceeding the 90-day period as a dodge to allow Ravitch to skate by Election Day without taking action to indict Deputy Gelhaus for the murder of Andy.
According to JCAL’s Jonathan Melrod, “Last night the Coalition endorsed a robust “90 Day Justice Campaign” to demand that DA Ravitch unequivocally respect the 90-day period and move to indict Deputy Gelhaus. We have plans for a concerted series of weekly and monthly protests that will continue to include mobilization of the Latino Community in SW Santa Rosa, marches and street demonstrations, aggressive lawsuits targeting police harassment and attendance at City Council and County Board Meetings. This spring’s Justice Campaign will culminate in a massive statewide march in Santa Rosa on June 20th in commemoration of what would be Andy’s 14th birthday.”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Fresno Police Whistleblower testifies on systematic human-rights abuse

Human Rights abuse in the City of Fresno: [link]
"Police whistleblower testifies against Fresno officers"
2014-01-23 by Corin Hoggard from "KFSN-TV/DT"

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A police whistleblower told his story as the officers he reported are standing trial for civil rights violations and obstruction of justice. Four officers are on trial for a second time. Three fellow officers testified for the prosecution Thursday.
Officer Martin Van Overbeek said he felt sick to his stomach after he saw a domestic violence suspect kicked and pummeled by bean bags from a less-than-lethal gun, so he had to come forward. But defense attorneys question his true motives.
Rolando Celdon's injuries are obvious in photos he shared with Action News days after he encountered Fresno police on a cold October night in 2005.
Celdon's ex-girlfriend had called 911 and when police caught him, they clearly worked him over. Federal prosecutors say it was excessive force. But defense attorneys say the situation required aggression by the police.
"Anybody who has not been searched and has their hands up like this and goes down like this towards their waistband, there's not an expert on force that exists who won't say, you have to assume he has a weapon," said defense attorney Marshall Hodgkins.
Officer Van Overbeek didn't see it that way. More than eight years later, he walked out of court Thursday after testifying he thought two officers seriously overstepped the limits of good police work. He reported it to a superior and within days, Paul Van Dalen and Chris Coleman lost their badges.
Sean Plymale and Mike Manfredi are also accused of fudging reports to cover up what really happened. But Plymale's attorney says Van Overbeek may be part of the real cover-up.
"I think that he and his officers stood there and did nothing and didn't assist by going over the fence because it was too hard for them to do that are trying to justify their nothingness by accusing these officers who are the ones who did do something and took a serious felon into custody," Hodgkins said.
A hung jury in the same case last year favored a "not guilty" verdict nine to three. And legal analyst Jeff Hammerschmidt says it's hard in an emotionally charged case like this to sway any jurors who've already made up their minds.
"They don't tend to go with the flow because they wouldn't want to see a police officer go to prison for a crime he didn't commit," Hammerschmidt said. "Others feel very strongly they wouldn't want to let an officer go free for a crime he did commit."
The retrial is in its second week. It's expected to last a month and defense attorneys tell Action News at least three of the four officers are expected to testify in their own defense.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Amended Federal Complaint vs. Sonoma County and Deputy Sheriff Erick Gelhaus

Justice for Andy Lopez Cruz! [link]

"New Development in the Andy Lopez Lawsuit"
Attorney Arnoldo Casillas Monday January 6th filed an Amended Federal Complaint vs. Sonoma County and Deputy Sheriff Erick Gelhaus. The additional allegations are State Law Causes of Action, which are now part of the Federal Complaint. Many of the additional allegations point to recently uncovered behaviors on Deputy Gelhaus’ party that support the Lopez family’s prior claims.
Mr. Casillas will serve the new Complaint on the Sonoma County Clerk today, Tuesday Jan. 7th, between 2:30 and 3:30. Prior to the serving of the Complaint Mr. Casillas will observe the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors’ meeting, which will be attended my Mothers in White from throughout Sonoma County and the Bay Area.
Copies of the complaint will be available to the press at the time that Attorney Casillas serves it.
Place: 575 Administration Dr.
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Sunday, January 5, 2014

FBI is not a "Law Enforcement" agency

FBI places operations against dissent on a higher priority than law enforcement [link]

"FBI Drops Law Enforcement as 'Primary' Mission"
2014-01-05 by John Hudson from "The Cable" []:

The FBI's creeping advance into the world of counterterrorism is nothing new. But quietly and without notice, the agency has finally decided to make it official in one of its organizational fact sheets. Instead of declaring "law enforcement" as its "primary function," as it has for years, the FBI fact sheet now lists "national security" as its chief mission. The changes largely reflect the FBI reforms put in place after September 11, 2001, which some have criticized for de-prioritizing law enforcement activities. Regardless, with the 9/11 attacks more than a decade in the past, the timing of the edits is baffling some FBI-watchers.
"What happened in the last year that changed?" asked Kel McClanahan, a Washington-based national security lawyer.
McClanahan noticed the change last month while reviewing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the agency. The FBI fact sheet accompanies every FOIA response and highlights a variety of facts about the agency. After noticing the change, McClanahan reviewed his records and saw that the revised fact sheets began going out this summer. "I think they're trying to rebrand," he said. "So many good things happen to your agency when you tie it to national security."
Although a spokesman with the agency declined to weigh in on the timing of the change, he said the agency is just keeping up with the times. "When our mission changed after 9/11, our fact sheet changed to reflect that," FBI spokesman Paul Bresson told Foreign Policy. He noted that the FBI's website has long-emphasized the agency's national security focus. "We rank our top 10 priorities and CT [counterterrorism] is first, counterintel is second, cyber is third," he said. "So it is certainly accurate to say our primary function is national security." On numerous occasions, former FBI Director Robert Mueller also emphasized the FBI's national security focus in speeches and statements.
FBI historian and Marquette University professor Athan Theoharis agreed that the changes reflect what's really happening at the agency, but said the timing isn't clear. "I can't explain why FBI officials decided to change the fact sheet... unless in the current political climate that change benefits the FBI politically and undercuts criticisms," he said. He mentioned the negative attention surrounding the FBI's failure in April to foil the bomb plot at the Boston Marathon by Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Whatever the reason, the agency's increased focus on national security over the last decade has not occurred without consequence. Between 2001 and 2009, the FBI doubled the amount of agents dedicated to counterterrorism [], according to a 2010 Inspector's General report []. That period coincided with a steady decline in the overall number of criminal cases investigated nationally and a steep decline in the number of white-collar crime investigations.
"Violent crime, property crime and white-collar crime: All those things had reductions in the number of people available to investigate them," former FBI agent Brad Garrett told Foreign Policy. "Are there cases they missed? Probably."
Last month, Robert Holley, the special agent in charge in Chicago, said the agency's focus on terrorism and other crimes continued to affect the level of resources available to combat the violent crime plaguing the city. "If I put more resources on violent crime, I'd have to take away from other things," he told The Chicago Tribune [].
According to a 2007 Seattle Post-Intelligencer investigation [], the Justice Department did not replace 2,400 agents assigned to focus on counterterrorism in the years following 9/11. The reductions in white-collar crime investigations became obvious. Back in 2000, the FBI sent prosecutors 10,000 cases. That fell to a paltry 3,500 cases by 2005.  "Had the FBI continued investigating financial crimes at the same rate as it had before the terror attacks, about 2,000 more white-collar criminals would be behind bars," the report concluded. As a result, the agency fielded criticism for failing to crack down on financial crimes ahead of the Great Recession and losing sight of real-estate fraud ahead of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.
In many ways, the agency had no choice but to de-emphasize white-collar crime. Following the 9/11 attacks, the FBI picked up scores of new responsibilities related to terrorism and counterintelligence while maintaining a finite amount of resources []. What's not in question is that government agencies tend to benefit in numerous ways when considered critical to national security as opposed to law enforcement. "If you tie yourself to national security, you get funding and you get exemptions on disclosure cases," said McClanahan. "You get all the wonderful arguments about how if you don't get your way, buildings will blow up and the country will be less safe.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"Andy Lopez Memorial Torched: Community will Rebuild"

Justice for Andy Lopez Cruz! [link]

2014-01-02 press release from Mary Moore [707-874-2248] and Jon Melrod [415-806-0154]
· Andy Lopez Memorial Site Burns
· We will Rebuild on Saturday at 11am
Sometime in the dark hours of Jan. 2nd the Andy Lopez Memorial Site in Santa Rosa at Moorland and West Robles burned to the ground. The fire was extinguished at 1a.m. Thursday morning by the Rincon Valley Fire Department.
Dara Rae McCuistion, leader of Mothers in White who are planning to demonstrate at the Sonoma County Supervisors meeting at 1:30 on Tuesday, said, “It’s shocking. Just yesterday with a group of Andy’s Youth, I attended the 5-year anniversary of Oscar Grant’s death. Today I woke up to news that the Andy Lopez Memorial had burned to the ground. Let it be know, whether in Oakland or Santa Rosa, Justice loving people will not be intimidated or discouraged. We plan to rebuild the Memorial this Saturday and will not rest till there is Justice for Andy’s murder!”
California Fire, Sonoma County Fire, with a sniffer machine, and Rincon Valley Fire Department are on the scene. Community members from the predominantly Latino Moreland neighborhood have gathered at the site all morning demanding answers. “They better issue an investigation report and do it very soon. If this was arson – we want to guilty party prosecuted!” said one neighbor.
Already, many of the neighborhood youth have gathered at the burned out Memorial working on rebuilding it. “We will sweep the ashes to the side and construct a larger, more prominent Memorial. Andy was one of us and we will never forget him. He was just a kid and did not have to die. His memory will not die.” Said a leader of Andy’s Youth.
"Andy Lopez Memorial has been burned" video posted 2014-01-02 by "Dad of ORB" []: Some time early this morning on the second day of 2014 Andy Lopez Memorial has been burned. I have no other words for this. (Comment from "Justice for ALONI": It looks like it was vandalism to me. Wood is broken, pictures are missing, and things are everywhere.)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sonoma County Sheriff's Department

Justice for Andy Lopez Cruz! (Santa Rosa, d. 2013-10-22) [link]

Sonoma Co. Sheriff's Deputy caught publicly torturing an alleged drunk near Guerneville (2014-08-20) [link]

Mothers in White, and a Founding Member of the Black Panther Party, Protests the Killing of Andy Lopez by Sonoma County at Board of Supervisors meeting

Justice for Andy Lopez Cruz! (d. 2013-10-22; Santa Rosa) [link]

Mothers in White to Converge on the Sonoma County Supervisors en Masse (with mirrors)
Jan. 7th @ 1:30 pm at 575 Administration Dr.
Contact: Dara @ [707 206-8565] [] or Jon [415 806-0154] [ ]
On October 22nd Sheriff Erick Gelhaus pumped round after round of lead into the prostate body of 13-year old Andy Lopez as he lay next to the toy airsoft gun he was carrying in an abandoned lot used as a play ground by neighborhood children in the mostly Latino area of Roseland in unincorporated Santa Rosa. Despite widespread demonstrations, petitions, letters to the editor and biting criticism of the shooting, Sheriff Gelhaus was returned to work by the Sonoma County Sheriffs Department after an opaque, non-public review of his “administrative actions” in shooting Andy.
On January 7th, the first Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting in 2014, a large contingent of Mothers in White from towns all over Sonoma County will confront the Board of Supervisors with dozens of mirrors in hand. In response to dozens of angry community members demanding redress at the Nov. 5th County Board meeting, Supervisor Mike McGuire responded that it was time to take a “hard look in the mirror” – not hard enough for us!
At the Jan. 7th Supervisors meeting, we will dress in white and carry mirrors to hold up to the Supervisors so they can take a “hard look in [our] mirror” and answer the questions – why have they done nothing to punish Sheriff Gelhaus for murder; why has he been returned to work without a transparent disclosure of how the Sonoma County Sheriffs’ Department found NO WRONGDOING; why did the Board totally fail to implement the suggestions by the 2000 US Commission on Civil Rights aimed at improving police procedures and lessening the number of civilian deaths.
Mirror, mirror on the wall – Supervisors are responsible to us all!

Elbert “Big Man” Howard, one of founding members of the Black Panther Party, issued a year-end, strongly worded indictment of Deputy Erick Gelhaus’ killing of 13-year old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, CA on Oct. 22nd, 2013. Big Man, a Black Panther from 1966 to 1974, served as Deputy Minister of Information, was a member of the Central Committee and the International Solidarity Committee and was the first editor of the BPP newspaper, which reached a circulation of 250,000 per week at its height.
“When the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was formed in 1966, one of our central platform points was the critical need to stop the rampant police brutality and murder in Black and other communities across America. We demanded Community Control of Police in hopes of ending this violent occupation of our communities by law enforcement. Now, almost 50 years later, it’s an immoral tragedy that a thirteen-year-old child was gunned down viciously in a hail of bullets in Santa Rosa. Had we been successful in establishing Community Control of the police, Andy Lopez might be alive today, celebrating the New Year with his family.”
In the mid-70’s, as the police and FBI gunned down and arrested Panthers in Chicago, LA, New York and elsewhere, and the Black Panther Party started to disintegrate, Big Man left the Bay Area. Decades later, upon his return to Northern California, as a community activist, he helped found the Police Accountability Clinic and Helpline (PACH), an all-volunteer organization. PACH, an all-volunteer organization, was formedto take reports of police misconduct and document police abuse, after community meetings that occurred because of a series of police killings that took place in 2007.
“At the Sonoma County Board ofSupervisors Meeting on Jan. 7th, I will be making a formal Statement on behalf of PACH and myself in response to the killing of Andy Lopez and in support of the Mothers in White.”
Big Man's statement will be read to the Supervisors on Jan 7th and will be available to the media.
Contact Elbert "Big Man" Howard at [] [901-921-0493], or Jon Melrod [415-806-0154]