Marlin Gusman

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"We’re called to serve the vulnerable": New Orleans responds to Trump's immigration order as refugee agencies face uncertain future

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 7:00 PM

A protest outside City Hall Jan. 29 following a freeze on immigration and refugee entry. - KAT STROMQUIST
  • A protest outside City Hall Jan. 29 following a freeze on immigration and refugee entry.

A family with three children under 5 years old was expected to arrive in Louisiana this week from Syria, where the death toll of a six-year-old civil war has reached nearly 500,000 people. The family is one of 80 refugee families Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans (CCANO) expected to resettle into Louisiana this year. Following an immigration ban targeting majority-Muslim countries and freezing a refugee program, CCANO is likely not to receive any refugee families for at least the next four months, leaving their safety and future in the U.S. unclear as constitutional questions, nationwide protests and lawsuits challenge an executive order issued within Donald Trump's first week as President.

"Even if they are in a safe location, a refugee camp, to wait two and a half years — they go through a long, rigorous vetting process before they come here — to get to this point where a few days before your departure they tell you, ‘You can’t leave,’ said CCANO's Division Director Martin Gutierrez. "Imagine how disheartening that would be."

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Things have got to get better": a memorial to New Orleans murder victims since 2007

Posted By on Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 1:40 PM

Nakita Shavers, whose brother Dinerral Shavers was murdered in 2006, reads the names of murder victims at the Silence Is Violence 10-year anniversary outside City Hall Jan. 11.
  • Nakita Shavers, whose brother Dinerral Shavers was murdered in 2006, reads the names of murder victims at the Silence Is Violence 10-year anniversary outside City Hall Jan. 11.

On Jan. 11, 2007, hundreds of New Orleanians rallied outside City Hall following a violent 2006. That year, 162 people were killed, including band director and musician Dinerral Shavers, marking New Orleans with the highest per capita murder rate in the U.S. Shavers' death — and the Jan. 4, 2007 death of filmmaker and artist Helen Hill in her own home — sparked the group Silence Is Violence to campaign for peace and demand citywide protection from gun violence, especially in its most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Ten years later, following a violent 2016 in which 174 people were killed, a small crowd had gathered on the wet steps of City Hall to memorialize victims of violence from the last decade — not with a march, but with a solemn reading of the names of more than 2,000 people who have been killed in New Orleans since 2007. Family and friends of the victims — along with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman — read the names of all of them, starting with Corey Hayes, 28, who was killed on New Year's Day 2007. Towering nearby was a sculpture by artist Mitchell Gaudet, an annual piece reflecting the previous year's murders with large pieces of broken glass representing each victim, and two revolvers mounted toward each other at its center.

"It's surreal to be here 10 years later," said Nakita Shavers, whose brother Dinerral was killed Dec. 28, 2006.

Deborah Reeder, whose son Chester Reeder III was killed near a Super Sunday parade in 2009, read the list of victims from that year. "It's difficult for me to read — my son is on this list, so bear with me," she said. "For all the names that will be read, I am sorry for our loss."

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Saturday, May 2, 2015

Library millage approved overwhelmingly, 75-25 percent; law enforcement millage redirection passes 52-48 percent

Posted By on Sat, May 2, 2015 at 10:30 PM

The main branch of the New Orleans Public Library. - CREATIVE COMMONS/JASON PARIS
  • The main branch of the New Orleans Public Library.

New Orleans voters today chose overwhelmingly to create a new 25-year, 2.5 mill tax to support the New Orleans Public Library (NOPL). While the library already is the recipient of a 3.14 mill tax, library officials warned that it wasn't enough to support the system long-term and said without new funds branches would shutter and hours would be cut.

With 99 percent of the vote counted, 75 percent of voters supported the tax, while 25 percent did not. The measure is expected to bring $8.25 million a year to the NOPL.  

The measure had wide community support, including endorsements by local newspapers and a number of New Orleans mayor's wives. The major opposition was stated by the Bureau of Governmental Research; officials said they supported the NOPL, but wanted a more detailed plan and urged that it be put on the fall ballot instead.

As of 10:25 p.m., another measure was too close to call — the redirection of a part of an existing millage to pay operational expenses at Orleans Parish Prison. That measure was barely ahead, 52 percent to 48 percent.

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Elections for NOPD chief? A new commission could reconfigure New Orleans law enforcement

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 5:10 PM

NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison in March 2015. - CHERYL GERBER
  • NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison in March 2015.

A Baton Rouge-bred commission could reorganize New Orleans law enforcement in the future, including the merging of the police and sheriff departments. State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, has filed a bill to create the Orleans Parish Law Enforcement Streamline and Accountability Commission, which would be tasked to determine the feasibility of merging the New Orleans Police Department with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, as well as calling an election for NOPD chief and whether the city's law enforcement effectively "meets the needs of its residents and visitors." The commission calls for 11 members, including the mayor, City Council members and the Inspector General, among others. The commission would meet every other month, with at least two meetings in New Orleans a year. After its meetings, the commission will draft a "detailed investigation and analysis" and make recommendations to the state Legislature.

Morrell also filed a measure to create the Law Enforcement Management District of Orleans Parish to “facilitate cooperative endeavor agreements and memorandums of understanding between or among the various agencies having law enforcement jurisdiction” in the city in order to “provide better police protection.” Its board membership would include the mayor, City Council members, officers from local universities, and levee and port police, among other law enforcement groups in the city.

The bills are the latest in Morrell’s ambitious 2015 lineup, which also includes measures to strengthen sex education in New Orleans and streamline procedures for sexual assault prosecution on college campuses. Morrell also will debut a weekly a podcast series on his website to air during each week of this year’s legislation session.

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Arrest warrant issued for former Orleans Parish Sheriff deputy

Posted By on Thu, May 8, 2014 at 4:34 PM

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.
  • Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman announced at a press conference today that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Lateefa Marshall, a former sheriff's deputy who is accused of initiating a fight with an inmate and subsequently filing a false report about the incident.

On March 29, Marshall allegedly struck an inmate at the Orleans Parish Jail on the chest and head, leaving the inmate bruised. Marshall is charged with simple battery and malfeasance, and she was suspended from her duties as deputy within 24 hours of the fight. She was released from the department earlier this week.

Marshall, who had been working for the department a little over a year, is at large.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Orleans City Council to be sworn in Monday in ceremony at Saenger Theater

Posted By on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 at 3:42 PM

The reopening of the Saenger Theater. - JEANIE RIESS
  • The reopening of the Saenger Theater.

The three new members of the New Orleans City Council — and the four continuing ones — will take their oaths of office Monday, May 5 at 10 a.m. at the Saenger Theater, followed by a special organizational meeting in City Council chambers at noon. An interfaith ceremony will precede it all at 8:30 a;m. at St. Louis Cathedral.

Counclmember-at-Large Elect Jason Williams will be sworn in by retired Orleans Parish Criminal Court Judge Calvin Johnson, while District C Councilmember-Elect Nadine Ramsey will be sworn in by Louisiana State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson and District D Councilmember-Elect Jared Brossett will be sworn in by Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Monique Morial.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Clerk of Court Dale Atkins, Clerk of Criminal District Court Arthur A. Morrell and Orleans Parish Coroner Jeffrey Rouse will attend the inaugural ceremony. Full details under the jump.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

John Barry is King of Feb. 15 Krewe du Vieux Parade

Posted By on Tue, Feb 4, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Krewe du Vieux parades through Faubourg Marigny.

Gov. Bobby Jindal isn’t likely a fan of the satirical Krewe du Vieux. In recent years, floats have depicted him dumping an old woman out of a wheelchair into the jaws of an alligator (“YoMamaCare”) and forcing himself on a Pelican. This year, the boisterous krewe has anointed historian and wetlands restoration advocate John Barry as king of its “Where the Vile Things Are” parade.

The author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 spent much of the last year championing a lawsuit, that Jindal opposes — a lawsuit against oil companies to pay for damages they caused to the wetlands. On Feb. 15, Barry will lead the irreverent krewe and its procession of brass bands and satirical, racy and offbeat floats. A regular viewer of the parade, Barry embraced the crown with his own theme.

“I’m going to be John of Arc, the Blade of Orleans,” Barry says. “When I walked into the (Krewe du Vieux) den, it occurred to me. It seemed perfect. You have a crusade — trying to protect Orleans. Instead of the Maid of Orleans, it’s the Blade of Orleans.”

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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Election Night 2014: Gusman and Foti head to runoff in sheriff's race

Posted By on Sat, Feb 1, 2014 at 11:46 PM

Sheriff Marlin Gusman: Were going to be victorious.
  • Alex Woodward
  • Sheriff Marlin Gusman: "We're going to be victorious."

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman will face off against his predecessor, Charles Foti, in a March 15 runoff following today's election. With 100 percent of the vote in, Gusman fell just below the victory mark with 49 percent of the vote to Foti's 29 percent. Challenger Ira Thomas took 19 percent and Quentin Brown 3 percent.

"I've been on pins and needles upstairs," Gusman told supporters at LACE The Grand Ballroom banquet hall in New Orleans East after an early projection showed him taking the race outright. "We don't know 'for sure' for sure, but things look pretty good." Several minutes later, however, the situation had changed, and Gusman came back to tell the crowd, "Looks like we have a little more work to do. ... We're going to be victorious."

In perhaps the evening's biggest irony, Gusman had entered his party to the strains of the Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes."

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Our 'superficial' sheriff

Posted By on Fri, Nov 1, 2013 at 1:11 PM

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.

Silly me.

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.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Press release from OPP Reform Coalition: "Mayor Plays Political Games at Our Peril"

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 4:57 PM

The Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition released a statement today demanding that New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman put an end to their dispute and agree to the OPP consent decree.

Landrieu says the cost of the consent decree — estimated in the tens of millions annually — combined with a $55 million four to five year consent decree over the New Orleans Police Department (which the Landrieu administration is also fighting after initially supporting it) would bankrupt the city, forcing massive layoffs and/or furloughs of essential employees.

During a fairness hearing — to determine whether conditions at the jail warrant the adoption of the consent decree — held earlier this month, the city took the position that the consent decree is unnecessarily broad, yet at the same time called for a more extreme measure to fix the jail: federal receivership, which it later formally requested.

Meanwhile Gusman favors the consent decree, yet maintains that his jail is not being run unconstitutionally.

U.S. District Court Judge has not yet made a ruling on the fairness hearing. Two more hearings on Gusman's budget and funding for jail improvements are scheduled for May 28 and July 1.

The impending Consent Decree would force the City *and* the Sheriff to finally do the right thing and make the changes necessary to ensure the safety of staff and inmates in a facility that now boasts over 700 assaults each year. However, instead of supporting the consent decree, our Mayor and his attorneys have engaged in the worst kind of hypocrisy, denying that conditions in OPP are unconstitutional while at the same time, claiming that things are so bad that the court should place the jail in federal receivership. The political chess game which is playing out in both the media and in U.S. District Court is a slap in the faces of the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters incarcerated in OPP, and the families of the 41 people who have died there in the last 8 years. It is also a threat to all New Orleanians, because we are all made unsafe by our dehumanizing, unconstitutional jail.

The statement ends with a call to "evacuate" all nonviolent offenders in the jail.

We are in a state of perpetual and untenable crisis. In terms familiar to New Orleanians, the storm at OPP has escalated to 'category five' status. It’s time to evacuate.

With a renewed sense of urgency we demand that persons held on non-violent charges — who, by law, would be set free in the event that a Category 3 hurricane were in the Gulf — be immediately released from Orleans Parish Prison. These individuals pose no threat to the community, but conditions in the jail do pose a significant threat to their lives.

(Read the full statement after the jump)

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