Across America Briefs

August 22, 2016

Attorneys: Baltimore

Lawsuits lack merit

BALTIMORE — Lawyers for Baltimore’s top prosecutor say lawsuits filed against her by five of the officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray are without merit and should be dismissed.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed charges against six officers in the death of Gray but did not win any convictions. Gray is a Black man who died after he was severely injured while riding in the back of a city police van.

Lawyers from the Maryland attorney general’s office responded to the lawsuits for the first time in court filings late Friday. They argued that Mosby can’t be sued for actions taken as a prosecutor. They also note that a court commissioner, a grand jury and the judge found probable cause to file charges.

Man accused of unprovoked attack on interracial couple

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Police say a man who told police he was part of a white supremacist group stabbed an interracial couple outside a bar in Olympia in a case that has garnered national media attention.

Daniel B. Rowe is jailed on $500,000 bail on investigation for assault and malicious harassment.

Olympia police spokeswoman Laura Wohl said Rowe approached the couple Tuesday night and without speaking, stabbed the 47-year-old Black man in the abdomen and also knifed his 35-year-old white girlfriend. Their injuries were not life-threatening.

The male victim was able to chase the 32-year-old suspect, who fell and was knocked unconscious.

Police say the attack appears to be unprovoked and that Rowe reportedly made racists statements to officers.

Rowe allegedly told police that he had gone downtown after hearing about anti-police graffiti that had been put up Sunday night, according to court documents.

The Olympian reported that Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Wheeler said in court Wednesday that the attack “has all the hallmarks of a hate crime.”

“This Black-and-white couple was simply expressing their love for one another,” Wheeler said.

Public defender Christian Cabrera said Rowe recently moved to the Olympia area after living in Richland.

U.S. Rep. to get award

from civil rights institute

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will honor a congresswoman during an annual awards ceremony in November.

U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton will be presented the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Awards on Nov. 19 at The Lyric Theatre in Birmingham. The award recognizes individuals for their service to civil and human rights causes.

Norton is “an iconic torch-bearer for the legacy of the civil rights movement and as a hero to the powerless and disenfranchised,” the institute said.

Known as the “Warrior on the Hill,” Norton has served 13 terms as the congresswoman for the District of Columbia. She has garnered success as one of the legislative leaders who writes bills and gets them enacted.

Former President Jimmy Carter appointed her to serve as the first woman to chair the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In a couple of surveys, Norton has been named one of the 100 most important American women and most powerful women in Washington.

Norton serves on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. She also is a member of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

Teacher’s name to be removed from building

ELK CITY, Okla. — The Elk City School Board has voted to remove a retired teacher’s name from a school building after an incident in which the man presented a Black colleague with a Ku Klux Klan robe and made racist comments at an Oklahoma City conference.

Larry Long presented the robe to his colleague after asking him to join him on stage while speaking at the Oklahoma Career and Technology’s Education Summer Conference on Aug. 2.

Long apologized for the incident and said he was trying to make a joke, and his actions weren’t a reflection of his values as an educator.

The school board renamed the high school’s agriculture building after Long two months ago. He had just retired after teaching agriculture for 49 years.

Last week, Elk City Public Schools Superintendent Rick Garrison recommended that the board remove Long’s name from the building.

“While the building was named for a tenured employee, we do not condone the actions made by the former school employee during a recent CareerTech ceremony,” Garrison said in a statement. “We feel the seriousness of those actions do not align with the district’s philosophy.”

School board president Brandon Storm said Long sent a letter to the board supporting his name’s removal.

Labor, civil rights activists to attend Detroit conference

DETROIT — U.S. Rep. John Conyers is one of several members of Congress scheduled to attend a labor and civil rights conference in Detroit.

The A. Philip Randolph Institute’s 47th Annual National Education Conference starts Wednesday. More than 500 labor and civil rights activists are expected to take part.

Conyers is a Democrat from Detroit.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver also is scheduled to speak.

Flint was under state control in 2014 when the city switched from Detroit’s water system to the Flint River in 2014 to save money. The corrosive river water caused lead to leach from aging pipes into homes.

Flint has switched back to Detroit water.

The A. Philip Randolph Institute is a labor and social justice organization that advocates on behalf of Black working men and women.

Youth camp aims

to boost trust

DETROIT — About 100 students plan to attend a Detroit camp hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that aims to improve relations between police and people in the communities they serve.

The 2016 Smart on Crime Detroit Youth Camp runs until Wednesday at the Horatio Williams Foundation in Detroit. It’s part of the U.S. Justice Department’s Smart on Crime program.

Topics include perspectives of officers during traffic stops, media coverage of crime stories and understanding the consequences of choices. Participants will integrate lessons into a youth-led presentation on the elements of a safe community.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a release that “in light of recent tensions,” officials wanted “to provide a forum for teens and officers to share their perspectives and ideas for improving relations and trust.”

St. Louis court to hear vote fraud allegation concerns

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis vote fraud case is going to court.

Attorneys for state Rep. Penny Hubbard on Monday are asking a judge to throw out a case claiming that Hubbard won her Aug. 2 Democratic primary because of illegally cast absentee ballots. But an attorney for her opponent, Bruce Franks, will argue that results should be overturned.

Franks lost by 90 votes, largely because Hubbard received 78.5 percent support of those who voted absentee.

More than 30 Franks supporters delivered letters to the St. Louis Election Board Wednesday alleging illegal use of absentee ballots. The board has asked the St. Louis circuit attorney and the U.S. attorney’s office to review. Secretary of State Jason Kander’s office is also reviewing formal complaints.

Former Ga. officer pleads guilty to extortion charges

ATLANTA — Federal prosecutors say a former police officer in Georgia has pleaded guilty to charges of extortion and drug trafficking conspiracy.

U.S. Attorney John Horn said in a statement Friday that Charles Hubbard used his position with the Auburn Police Department to assist drug traffickers and used his patrol car to steal drugs and money. Auburn is about 40 miles northeast of Atlanta.

Federal prosecutors say wiretaps found Hubbard agreed to pull over a person carrying drugs in exchange for a $5,000 payment.

Investigators say Hubbard took a confidential source’s money in April. They say he wore clothing at the time identifying himself as a police officer and while using his official vehicle and that he gave the person a fake drug task force receipt. Officers found similar blank receipts after arresting Hubbard.

Hubbard’s sentencing is set for Nov. 7.

— Compiled from The Associated Press

K.C. police chief retools community policing efforts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The police chief in Kansas City, Mo., says he’s having all of his officers actively involved in the city’s communities rather than just six designated officers.

Chief Daryl Forte wrote in an internal letter accidentally given to some community leaders that it’s time to reform the 25-year-old program under which a handful of officers make key connections in the community.

Forte said he hopes the change reduces crime and the number of police calls by getting to what he calls the “root causes of some of these problems.”

But some leaders of neighborhood associations, while hoping the change works, worry that police department turnover and burdened officers could cut into the time police spend in the communities.

Montgomery board approves mosque plan

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A city panel in Montgomery has approved plans to build a mosque had prompted concerns by some residents.

The Board of Adjustment voted Thursday to allow construction of the worship center on a busy street just outside a neighborhood.

Board chair John Stanley had reservations about neighborhood residents walking across the grass to go to the mosque, and he also voiced concerns about a playground being too close to neighboring houses.

Two people spoke against the mosque, but others supported it. Backers included Immanuel Presbyterian pastor Elizabeth O’Neill, who told the board she welcomes the mosque.

Similar projects have met with opposition in recent years in other cities including Mobile and metro Birmingham.

— Compiled from The Associated Press