When Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Sheriff Marlin Gusman announced an agreement to begin funding the federal consent decree at Orleans Parish Prison (OPP), I thought we were finally seeing some progress at the troubled jail.
The Times-Picayune is now reporting that Gusman is investigating the man responsible for helping the TP and the Southern Poverty Law Center expose the countless rapes, stabbings and inhumane conditions inside the jail.
News organizations are loath to reveal confidential sources, but in this case Deputy Bryan Collins has agreed to let the TP identify him. He no longer has anything to lose, and perhaps the light of day will force Gusman to back down.
According to the newspaper, Collins as of last week had not been allowed to report for duty for a week. The paper also reported that Collins has hired a lawyer who took the deputy’s concerns about retaliation to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Based on the TP’s reporting, Collins’ concerns are justified. In fact, the DOJ should expand its probe of Gusman’s office to include retaliation against Collins.
Gusman’s office has confirmed it is pursuing criminal and administrative investigations of Collins for alleged violations of OPP policies. The “violations” include Collins bringing a cellphone into the jail, where he photographed a bloody cell — the scene of a brutal stabbing — and shared it with the newspaper and the law center. The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the original lawsuit against Gusman, which the DOJ later joined. That lawsuit led to the consent decree.
Now, after Collins helped expose the hellish conditions that warranted federal intervention at OPP, he’s being scapegoated by the man responsible for those conditions — because he used his cellphone to blow the whistle. Never mind that scores of prisoners bring cellphones — and a lot worse — into Gusman’s jail.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Louisiana consistently leads the U.S. in domestic homicides. Louisiana ranked No. 1 for the rate of women killed by men in 2009 with a rate of 2.53 per 100,000, according to the Violence Policy Center. The state ranked at No. 4 in 2010, and No. 9 in 2011. According to the Louisiana Coalition on Domestic Violence, 81 percent of female homicides are committed by a partner or an ex-partner.
At New Orleans City Council's health, education and social services committee meeting this afternoon, members of local domestic violence prevention and aid organizations presented their efforts to curb the epidemic in the New Orleans area.
"Louisiana is one of the most dangerous, violent places to be a wife, a mother, a girlfriend," said Kati Bambrick Rodriguez, director of the New Orleans Health Department's Domestic Violence Program. According to Rodriguez, Orleans Parish has issued 3,420 personal protective orders (compared to Baton Rouge, which issued 2,088), though only 24 percent of people seeking protection actually get it, she said. Rodriguez added that no LGBT victims of domestic violence have received a protective order.
In a damning 129-page order, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt granted a new trial for the five New Orleans Police Department officers convicted of shooting at unarmed people on the Danziger Bridge and covering up the events in the days following Hurricane Katrina. James Brissette and Ronald Madison were killed. Four others were wounded.
Engelhardt granted the motion filed by former NOPD Sgt. Archie Kaufman, as well as Kenneth Bowen, Robert Faulcon, Robert Gisevius and Anthony Villavaso.
Engelhardt largely based his ruling on what he calls a campaign to influence the media of NOPD's culture of corruption, and the "carnival atmosphere" of online comments from former prosecutors who used several aliases to discuss the case. The commenters — Sal Perricone and Jan Mann — were not directly involved with the case, but Engelhardt noted in his order that the case was intended to be about the gross misconduct of NOPD officers and ended with other acts of misconduct on the prosecuting side.
In 2011, a federal jury found the officers guilty on 25 counts, including falsification of witness statements, fabrication of evidence, making false statements to the FBI, deprivation of civil rights, and obstruction of justice. The jury did not find the shootings constituted murder, though Bowen, Falucon, Gisevius and Villavaso were convicted of firing their weapons. They were sentenced in April 2012 to up to 65 years in prison. Kaufman was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the cover up.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this morning that same-sex couples cannot be denied federal benefits given to other couples. The ruling strikes down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which prevents married same-sex couples from receiving health, tax and other federal benefits.
"DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment," wrote justice Anthony Kennedy in the court's 5-4 decision. In the majority rule were justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were in the minority.
The court also dismissed Proposition 8, the California law banning same-sex marriage there. The decision paves the way for California to reinstate same-sex marriages. (Twelve states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriages.) The DOMA ruling means the federal government must recognize marriages in those states.
At 5:30 p.m. today, the Forum for Equality and several other organizations host a "Day of Decision" rally in Jackson Square:
Forum For Equality will rally in New Orleans with ACLU Louisiana, Human Rights Campaign, LGBT Community Center and PFLAG-New Orleans to explain the decision, what it means for Louisiana couples and to support the freedom to marry.
Come with your partners, wives and husbands! Bring the entire family! Invite along your friends, neighbors, allies and co-workers! Don’t forget your signs, banners, and flags! And wear RED! Press, organizations, and individual community members are all encouraged to attend.
Following a federal class action lawsuit filed last year by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and others, a settlement was reached with the state of Louisiana to remove hundreds of people from sex offender registries because of "crimes against nature" by solicitation (CANS) convictions.
Among the defendants in Doe v. Caldwell: Louisiana attorney general Buddy Caldwell, Department of Public Safety and Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc, and Louisiana State Police Superintendent Michael Edmonson.
People convicted under Louisiana's centuries-old law against solicitation of "crimes against nature" no longer have to register as sex offenders, thanks to a law passed in 2011 that equalizes the penalties for prostitution and solicitation of "crimes against nature" (oral and anal sex) — but the law was not retroactive.
5 p.m. Thursday, June 6 update: The New Orleans Inspector General's office issued a report saying the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office (OPSO) is "adequately funded" and recommends that the city "not appropriate funds for the jail unless OPSO provides it with a detailed, functional budget that identifies the specific jail expenditures the revenues support." Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said in a statement, "The root cause is a dysfunctional structure that gives OPSO a blank check that the City must sign, and ensures that neither the City nor OPSO can be held wholly accountable for conditions in the Jail. The Jail will remain as it is until that structure is changed.”
U.S. District Judge Lance Africk approved a federal consent decree this afternoon between the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice to address the controversial conditions at Orleans Parish Prison.
The consent decree, to be assessed and overseen by an independent monitor, is welcomed by Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, though he has repeatedly stressed that his office and the jail are run constitutionally. Gusman instead has claimed that the jail's conditions are due to a lack of funding and leadership from Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the city. Landrieu's office has objected to the consent decree, which his office argues will cost the city $110 million over five years.
Louisiana's House Committee on House and Governmental Affairs failed to pass a bill which would "prohibit discrimination in state employment on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression."
Authored by State Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, who in 2011 introduced a bill to protect gay students from bullying, House Bill 85 would allow gay state employees who were discriminated against to appeal to the state Civil Service Commission. Current law allows discrimination appeals based on discrimination of political beliefs, sex or race and, provides for hearings and decisions in those cases. Current law does not include provisions for gay employees.
The Louisiana Family Forum argued the bill would create "a target-rich environment for lawsuits" and afford "special" rights to gay employees.
The committee voted 6-3 against the bill.
Today is May Day, or International Workers Day. In New Orleans, immigrant workers and their families and supporters plan to march to City Hall to demand better workers' rights and call for an end to deportations.
The Congress of Day Laborers and the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice co-organized the event, which begins with a march at 11:30 a.m. at Armstrong Park. The march meets at the rally at 2:30 p.m. outside City Hall, where participants will call on New Orleans City Council members and Mayor Mitch Landrieu to prevent undocumented workers from being sent to Orleans Parish Prison.
Last month, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu addressed her position on same sex marriage as the U.S Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. U.S. Senate Democrats had only a handful of marriage equality opponents — Landrieu among them. Today, Indiana's Joe Donnelly and North Dakota's Heidi Heitkamp came forward in support.
Donnelly wrote the following on Facebook: "With the recent Supreme Court arguments and accompanying public discussion of same-sex marriage, I have been thinking about my past positions and votes. In doing so, I have concluded that the right thing to do is to support marriage equality for all."
"After speaking with North Dakotans from every corner of our great state, and much personal reflection, I have concluded the federal government should no longer discriminate against people who want to make lifelong, loving commitments to each other or interfere in personal, private, and intimate relationships," Heitkamp wrote. "The makeup of families is changing, but the importance of family is enduring."
Landrieu has not outright opposed the concept — she even has acknowledged the "progression" of public opinion and its influence. Last month, Landrieu told Buzzfeed that she feels "very strongly that people should be allowed to love who they love," but added, "unfortunately my state has a very strong ban against gay marriage constitutionally."
After a six-hour round of testimony in federal court over the Orleans Parish Parish consent decree, Sheriff Marlin Gusman held a brief press conference outside OPP's intake center in the shadow (and noise) of new facility construction. As he did last week following Mayor Mitch Landrieu's emergency City Council meeting on the OPP consent decree, Gusman slammed the mayor and defended the internal reforms at the sheriff's office — and addressed the content of a damning video of inmates at the now-closed House of Detention, which closed last year.
"That video from 2009 revealed in graphic detail the devastating effect of rumbling, outdated jail buildings that are lacking modern security measure," Gusman said. "The four-year-old images you saw reflect the old way of warehousing inmates. ... The actions taken in that video are unacceptable and despicable."
God's speed, Rodrigue
A word to the wise. NEVER celebrate after you have been declared cancer free. You…
to "Clancy's Reckoning;" If you have any doubt about Gambit's judgement of character chew on…
George was a rare person who never said a bad thing about anyone and likewise…
From the Spin article: "While Hope Road legally has the trademark to the phrase in…
This stuff is not good, smoked it for a few months straight and I would…
Tempred to call CPS?
No case here. You can't copyright or trademark a song title.
The Marley estate was foolish not to trademark the phrase themselves. They have created a…
Double D, you don't make up the majority. It's just that local and state politicians…