Tuesday, January 12, 2021

N.Y.P.D. Concludes That Deputy Inspector James F. Kobel Wrote Racist Posts Under Pseudonym

 

James F. Kobel

N.Y.P.D. Concludes Anti-Harassment Official Wrote Racist Online Rants

William K. Rashbaum and 

The official, James F. Kobel, who will now face a departmental trial, filed for retirement as the inquiry was winding down.

After two months of investigation, police officials have concluded that a high-ranking officer responsible for combating workplace harassment in the New York Police Department wrote dozens of virulently racist posts about Black, Jewish and Hispanic people under a pseudonym on an online chat board favored by police officers.

The officer, Deputy Inspector James F. Kobel, filed his retirement papers late last week as the departmental inquiry was winding down. But the officials said on Monday that they still planned to bring administrative charges against him as soon as this month for falsely denying that he had written the offensive messages.

“The evidence is strong,” said one senior police official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel matter. “We have no doubt that it’s him.”

The downfall of Inspector Kobel, who oversaw the department’s Equal Employment Opportunity Division, began over the summer when an investigator with the City Council’s Oversight and Investigations Division stumbled across a series of disturbingly racist posts on the Rant, an infamous chat board.

Even by the Rant’s vitriolic standards, the messages, written by a poster who called himself “Clouseau,” were particularly vicious and racist.

One referred to former President Barack Obama as a “Muslim savage.” Another labeled Dante de Blasio, the Black son of Mayor Bill de Blasio, as “brillohead.”

By October, the council’s oversight division, led by then-Councilman Ritchie Torres, managed to identify “Clouseau” as Inspector Kobel. In a painstaking bit of online sleuthing, the investigators matched up hints that “Clouseau” had left online about his life with details about the inspector’s personal and professional biographies that were publicly available.

On July 1, 2019, for example, “Clouseau” left a message describing how he joined the Police Department on June 30, 1992, recalling it as an “unbelievably hot” night. Using city payroll records, the investigators determined that Inspector Kobel had joined the force on that same date.


Then last January, “Clouseau” wrote that he had once worked “in Housing” under “JJ,” whom he referred to with an obscene slur for women. According to Inspector Kobel’s LinkedIn page, he too served in the department’s Housing Bureau — from 2012 to 2014, at a time when it was run by a female chief, Joanne Jaffe.

In November, The New York Times presented police officials with a draft report of the council’s findings, prompting the internal investigation. At the time, Inspector Kobel denied the allegations and said he did not post on the Rant.

Inspector Kobel was placed on modified assignment. If he is convicted at his departmental trial, he could be fired. He will keep his pension unless he is convicted of a felony. He did not respond to a message seeking comment on Monday night.

Captain Chris Monahan, who heads the Captains Endowment Association, the union that represents the inspector, defended him in a statement, saying he had served the city and the Police Department for 29 years.

“Given the current political climate and anti-police sentiment, D.I. Kobel did not see it as possible to get a fair administrative trial and decided to avail himself of the opportunity to file for retirement,” the statement said.

At the outset of the inquiry, conducted by the Internal Affairs Bureau, Inspector Kobel voluntarily provided investigators with his personal cellphone and computer, and they believed the postings were not in keeping with his public persona and reputation.


See also:

N.Y.P.D. Anti-Harassment Official Accused of Racist Rants

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Defamation and Network Smearing Election Machine Manufacturers


What is defamation? One definition is character assassination:

the malicious and unjustified harming of a person's good reputation.

"all too often they discredit themselves by engaging in character assassination".

Currently, it looks to me like major social media service providers make statements that they "hope" will be taken as factual, but are not.

Facebook and Twitter should not be able to censor what people say because they - the people who have the power to click truth away at these media conglomerates - don't want anyone to read something that contradicts their beliefs. Their beliefs are their right to have, but not to force on others.

Betsy Combier, betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials


How defamation law is supposed to work: Networks couldn’t 
get away with smearing election machine manufacturers

Edward Steinberg, NY DAILY NEWS, December 29, 2020

The late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” 

Last week, right-wing “news” networks 
Fox News, Fox Business, Newsmax and OAN got a painful, awkward lesson in the legal meaning of Moynihan’s phrase. 

Since the election, these networks have broadcast their opinion, and that of President Trump’s, that the 2020 election was stolen. Of course, they have a First Amendment right to state this. 

But, lacking any evidence whatsoever, Trump, our fabulist-in-chief, in tandem with these Trump-echo networks, made up “facts” to lend support to this opinion: conspiracies involving George Soros; midnight ballot dumps; biased poll workers; and electronic voting systems from Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic that supposedly switched votes from Trump to Biden in swing states. 

These conspiracy theories even forced one election systems worker into 
hiding because of death threats. 

And here is where the networks crossed a line. Moynihan’s famous aphorism actually describes defamation law perfectly. False statements of facts, even if mixed with opinion, can give rise to lawsuits by those reputationally injured, even against the press. 

And so, 
Smartmatic and Dominion merely threatened defamation lawsuits — and many of these networks caved, issuing not only specific retractions but also admissions that they possessed no evidence of ballot switching or of the dark conspiracies that they had been advancing. 

Normally, one would not think of corporations as the go-to defenders of truth and democracy, but in this case, it was their threat of defamation lawsuits that brought forward truth, and that hopefully will increase confidence in the outcome of our election. 

In the famous story, it’s a child who calls out the emperor for having no clothes; today, it’s voting machine companies. Tomorrow, it may be poll workers falsely accused of improperly scanning ballots, voters falsely accused of illegal registrations, not-for-profits falsely accused of illegal ballot harvesting, and anyone in a news story, or a widely-circulated Facebook post or Tweet, who is falsely accused of illegal activity in connection with an election. 

Smartmatic and Dominion are on to something. The explosion of falsity by propagandist networks must be met with a flood of defamation suits. 

And while social media companies themselves might be — for now — able to escape such suits because of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, individual users of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with large followings should know that they might be held liable for spreading specific lies that sully the reputation of businesses or individuals. 

Lawsuits for intentional infliction of emotional distress can be another tool in the fight for truth against right wing-conspiracies. Fox News found this out when the Second Circuit 
held that the parents of murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich could sue over a segment purporting to link Rich to WikiLeaks in furtherance of an alt-right theory that his death involved leaked DNC emails. 

Legislators, too, can help. New York should consider laws to extend the statute of limitations for defamation suits, mandate double or treble damages in egregious instances, and protect whistleblowers who bring forward evidence of malicious and deliberate false reporting. 

The First Amendment would not be implicated by any of these laws, nor would there likely be much increase in the number of defamation suits filed. Falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater has never been protected by the First Amendment; falsely yelling that someone burned ballots is not protected either. 

Steinberg is the president of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. 

Visit our COVID-19 Response page 
here

join the NYSTLA COVID-19 Listserver

or please contact Nick Novak at 212-349-5890 Ext. 800 

or at nnovak@nystla.org

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

U.S. Army National Guard Reservist Wins Case of Employment Discrimination Against Jeweler Harry Winston

 




Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, December 30, 2020
Justice Department Secures Relief for U.S. Army National Guard Reservist on Employment Discrimination Claim Against Luxury Jeweler Harry Winston
The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced today that they resolved a claim that luxury jeweler Harry Winston Inc. violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) by refusing to offer full-time employment to U.S. Army National Guard Reservist John A. Walker because of his military service obligations.
“Discrimination against members of the National Guard or Reserve because of their service to our country is intolerable, violates the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and the Department of Justice will not stand for it,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “We honor all service members for their service to our nation, and this settlement signals the Justice Department’s ongoing commitment in protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform.”
“Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines fight for us. Fighting for their legal rights is the least we can do,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick for the Southern District of Texas. “All service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, need to know that employers cannot discriminate against them based on their military service obligations. This settlement sends a strong message to employers that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will protect the rights of our service members.”
In December 2017, reservist Walker applied for a job with Harry Winston, Inc., which denied his application. Walker alleged that Harry Winston, Inc. refused to hire him because of his military service obligations. Under the terms of the settlement, Harry Winston, Inc. has agreed to fully compensate Walker for his back-pay and non-wage damages.
Congress enacted USERRA to encourage non-career service in the uniformed services by reducing employment disadvantages; to minimize the disruption to the lives of persons performing military service, their employers and others by providing for the prompt reemployment of such persons upon their completion of such service; and to prohibit discrimination against persons because of their service in the uniformed services or if they pursue a claim under USERRA.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) referred this matter following an investigation by their Veterans’ Employment and Training ServiceTraining Service. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas and the Employment Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division handled the case and work collaboratively with the DOL to protect the jobs and benefits of military members.
This investigation was led by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Keith Edward Wyatt and Annalisa Cravens and Paralegal Specialist Raymond Babauta of the Southern District of Texas, along with Assistant Director Andrew Braniff of the Department of Justice’s Servicemembers and Veterans Initiative and Senior Trial Attorney Alicia Johnson of the Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section.
Topic(s):
Servicemembers Initiative
Civil Rights
Component(s):
Civil Rights Division
Civil Rights - Employment Litigation Section
USAO - Texas, Southern
Press Release Number:
20-1399

Sunday, December 27, 2020

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Chain Threatened By Cyber Attackers

 


Cyber Attackers Threaten COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Chain

Jason G. Weiss, Peter Baldwin, Faegre Drinker, December 8, 2020


As COVID-19 vaccine approvals and eventual distribution kicks into high gear, there has been a corresponding – and not particularly surprising – increase in cyber threat activity targeting both vaccine producers and other companies involved in the vaccine distribution chain. Most notably, “cold chain” companies responsible for safely storing and transporting the vaccines have been targeted. The problem has become so severe that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department ofHomeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently issued a joint security alert on December 3, 2020, highlighting the risk to the coronavirus vaccine distribution chain.

The alert from the FBI and CISA follows on the heels of an international security alert issued by Interpol warning that there may be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine by organized crime. On December 2, 2020, Interpol issued an “Orange Notice” outlining   potential criminal activity against COVID-19 cold chain transporters and highlighting the risks associated with online fraud linked to “advertising, selling and administering fake vaccines.”  Interpol warned that, as COVID-19 vaccines get closer to approval and distribution, it will be critical to “ensure the safety of the supply chain and identifying illicit websites and fake products.” Interpol also advised member nations to warn the public about cyber threats associated with websites purporting to offer information about vaccines. Notably, Interpol found that, after reviewing over 3,000 websites of online pharmacies suspected of selling illicit medicines and medical devices, “around 1,700 contained cyber threats, especially phishing and spamming malware.”

The threat alert released by the FBI and CISA   included information provided by the IBM Security X-Force threat intelligence task force, which is dedicated to monitoring COVID-19 cyber threats. For example, the IBM intelligence report highlighted a recent global phishing campaign targeting organizations associated with the COVID-19 vaccine distribution chain, which targeted many leading COVID-19 vaccine producers. As part of this campaign, cyber threat actors sent spear-phishing emails directly to executives involved in sales, procurement, IT, and finance positions at pharmaceutical companies involved in developing vaccines. In addition, the cyber threat actors sent phishing emails in “Requests for Quotations” to COVID-19 vaccine executives throughout the world. The emails contained malicious HTML attachments in order to conduct “credential harvesting” attacks and steal login and passwords for many of the victim’s accounts.

The IBM security intelligence report recommends the following defenses to help combat cyber threats against the COVID-19 distribution chain:

·         Create and test incident response plans

·         Share and ingest threat intelligence

·         Assess your third party ecosystem and assess potential risks

·         Apply a zero-trust approach to your security strategy

·         Use multifactor authentication (MFA) across your organization

·         Conduct regular email security educational training

·         Use Endpoint Protection and Response

Given the proliferation of cyber-attacks against vaccine producers and the COVID-19 vaccine distribution chain, organizations involved in vaccine development or distribution should carefully review and study the recent threat alert from the FBI and CISA. Finally, in these turbulent times, it is critical that everyone remain vigilant of the threats surrounding the entire COVID-19 vaccine distribution chain.

© 2020 Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. All Rights Reserved.


Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure

Two Federal Courts Uphold Coronavirus-Related Restrictions on Abortion Clinics

 


Federal Courts Uphold Texas, Arkansas Abortion Orders AmidCOVID-19

Two federal circuit courts this week upheld coronavirus-related restrictions on abortion clinics in Texas and Arkansas, offering some legal victories in the larger national debate over whether abortion is an essential medical procedure.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that Federal District Judge Kristine Baker in Little Rock, Arkansas, erred in granting a preliminary injunction against Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s order prohibiting surgical abortions during the pandemic. The Arkansas victory will be of short effect, however, as the state prepares to open up for elective medical procedures next week.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Fifth Circuit panel, in a 2-1 ruling Monday, allows Texas to restrict medication abortions during the crisis. A week ago, the Fifth Circuit ruled that Texas could prohibit surgical abortions because of public health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, turning back a lower court ruling, while delaying a ruling on medication abortions.

In Arkansas, questions quickly swirled Wednesday as Gov. Hutchinson, feeling pressure from hospitals and medical practices trying to avoid layoffs, announced the state would seek to open up for elective medical procedures as early as Monday, provided certain public health requirements are met. One of those requirements is that medical patients be tested for coronavirus 48 hours in advance of being treated for an elective procedure.

Jerry Cox, president of Little Rock-based Family Council, says although the federal court ruling victory will only be effective until Monday, the governor’s order on the Little Rock Family Planning Clinic, the state’s only surgical abortion provider, and the subsequent ruling plowed some important ground for future cases. Planned Parenthood had joined with the clinic to challenge the governor’s order.

“The ruling by the Eighth Circuit yesterday was a huge pro-life victory,” Cox said, “and here’s why: It allowed the governor’s cease and desist order to stand, which means the clinic had to stop doing surgical abortions; and two, they severely slapped the hand of a federal judge here in Little Rock named Kristine Baker, and she has been very prone to rule in a pro-choice direction. … I think the court is sending a very strong message to her that she is out of bounds.” Baker was an Obama appointee.

Cox also mentioned that a group of pro-life legislators visited the Little Rock abortion clinic after the governor’s order and prayed as a group outside, which he said was unprecedented and drew significant attention to the clinic. “The exposing of evil that has been done has been a huge benefit,” Cox said. “The clinic may get back to business as usual, but they have lost big-time in the court of public opinion.”

In Texas, meanwhile, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling vindicates pro-life GOP Gov. Greg Abbott’s contention that abortions, whether medication abortions or surgical abortions, don’t rise to the level of a medically necessary procedure.

Trump appointee Kyle Duncan cast the deciding vote in the 2-1 decision, something abortion proponents were quick to note.

The court agreed with the state that a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) was a valid reason to disallow abortion procedures, even those using medication methods. The judges opined that abortion proponents had failed to show that PPE wouldn’t be necessary to at least examine women seeking medication abortions.

Conservative group Texas Values reports that because of Abbott’s executive order, “an estimated 1,800 babies’ lives at least have been saved from abortion to date. On average, abortionists perform 144 abortions per day in Texas.”

Photo: Rex Wholster/Alamy Stock Photo

Betsy Combier, betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Wants To Start an "Enemies List" of Trump Supporters To Punish Them

 

President Donald Trump participates in a Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                       CONTACT: Will Hadden

November 18, 2020, Shirley & McVicker Public Affairs
                                                                                         whadden@sbpublicaffairs.com
                                                                                                        703.739.5920
CFTR Denounces AOC’s Proposed Un-American “Enemies List” of Trump Supporters, Threatens Litigation
Democrats Open Themselves to Lawsuits if Innocent Americans Lose Jobs for Exercising their First Amendment Rights
 
Washington, D.C. – Citizens for the Republic, the political action committee founded by President Ronald Reagan, harshly denounced Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for recently proposing the creation of a list of “Trump sycophants” to show their “complicity” with Trump should he leave office. Ocasio-Cortez’s alarming proposal comes at the same time that a group of Democratic staffers launched a website called the “Trump Accountability Project,” to blacklist former Trump staffers looking to find jobs next year.
 
“What Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and the operatives behind the Trump Accountability Project are proposing is, at its core, antithetical to every value enshrined in our First Amendment. This is America, and in America we do not penalize citizens for how they choose to vote or who they choose to work for in government. We do not take revenge on political adversaries and we certainly do not ‘make lists.’ Such behavior is no better than the targeted political violence carried out by common despots in places like Cuba and Venezuela,” CFTR said in a statement today.
 
If any Americans who make it onto this list are refused a job opportunity or lose their current jobs as a result, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and her vengeful cohorts may face legal action from those same Americans. Their blind quest for retribution resulting in the loss of business or other similar opportunities may constitute legally as tortious interference with business opportunities and expectations, depending on the facts.
 
“If the Congresswoman and those with her attitude insist on continuing this dangerous course, they should remember that innocent people will be hurt emotionally and financially. They should know their actions have consequences. If they want to play with fire, they can expect to be called to account in court by those of us who still believe in freedom of choice.”
 
To reach a spokesperson from Citizens for the Republic, please contact Will Hadden at whadden@sbpublicaffairs.com or call 703.739.5920


Dems' 'accountability project' aimed at 'canceling' Trump loyalists shuts down
- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Trump Accountability Project (TAP) was short-lived in its plan to blacklist Trump loyalists.

It announced Thursday on its sparse website that “the project will no longer be active.”

Conservatives ridiculed backers of presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s for launching a campaign to cancel people who worked for President Trump by denying them post-government employment. On social media, Trump supporters invoked the names of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, men who brutally suppressed opponents.

Neither the website nor its Twitter page disclosed its organizers. But former Obama and Clinton officials urged liberals to join.

Hari Sevugan, former spokesman for the Barack Obama campaign, was one of those.







Sunday, November 15, 2020

Manhattan's Mental Health Court Doesn't Help Everyone Who Needs It

Luis Reyes is pictured on October 30, 2020 in Manhattan, New York. 
(Barry Williams/for New York Daily News)

 

"It’s a cruel world, and I’m better off dead:' Manhattan Mental Health Court offers lifeline to those with serious mental illness — but they have to get in

By NY Daily News, November 14, 2020

Luis Reyes was 16 when he first tried to end his life.

It was 2002 and Reyes was doing time at Rikers Island for entering an apartment with friends and swiping several items. The arrest had come just a few months after an unrelated event, where he’d been held at gunpoint near his Washington Heights home because a group of men mistook him for an accomplice in a failed drug deal.

The holdup flipped a switch in Reyes.

Flashbacks triggered panic attacks but the nightmares were worse, he said, the men swelling to the size of giants in his dreams. He began cutting himself and would space out in school. His mother sent him to a therapist, but the paranoia persisted. He turned to cocaine to keep himself from remembering.

The charges he faced for the theft — second-degree burglary, a violent felony — put him in jail, where his thoughts took a dark turn.

“I tried to hang [myself],” Reyes, now 35, told the Daily News during an Aug. 26 call from Rikers, where he landed again 19 years after that first suicide attempt. "Many times I thought there was something wrong with me, so I’d try to take my life. [People would say,] ‘Oh, he’s bipolar, oh he has schizophrenia.’ It was overwhelming.

My bad thoughts kept coming and coming…and I didn’t know if I was a bad guy or a good guy. What I felt was it’s a cruel world, and I’m better off dead.”

Reyes — who spoke to The News several times while at Rikers in recent months and once from Bellevue Hospital, where he had been treated for epileptic seizures he suffered in jail — was behind bars until mid-October for a technical parole violation in a separate case. 

His public defender, Thalia Karny, of New York County Defender Services, had repeatedly asked the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to consider Reyes for mental health court — a specialized court that connects people in need of emotional, psychological and pharmaceutical support to the counselors and physicians who can treat them and guide them toward possible alternatives to incarceration.

Karny provided about 800 pages of Reyes’ medical records going back more than a decade detailing suicide attempts, depression, his substance abuse disorder, schizophrenia, and a traumatic brain injury from a car accident when he was 16, around the time his seizures started.

But the lead assistant district attorney on the case and his bureau chief denied multiple requests to screen Reyes — a missed opportunity for him to get the care he desperately needs, Karny said.

Only a handful of cases ever make it to Manhattan Mental Health Court, according to data provided by the district attorney — and that was before COVID-19 ground the city to a halt. On Friday, after tentatively opening some courtrooms for trials and hearings over the summer, the Office of Court Administration once again shut down most in-person proceedings, citing a recent surge in the virus.

Even pre-COVID, the mental health court moved at a plodding pace. In 2018, the office received 74 requests for referral. Of those, prosecutors consented to refer 43 cases — about 58% — and declined to refer the rest. In 2019, the office got 136 requests. They consented to 46 cases — about 34% — and declined to refer the remaining 90.

The office referred three cases this year before the court shut down in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Twelve cases were not referred to mental health court, though two of those were referred to another diversion court. Thirty-five are pending.

A New York County Defender Services report of 41 cases involving 29 clients from January 2016 to Sept. 20 found the average wait time from arraignment to get into mental health court is 286 days, with one taking as long as 743. Once in court, the cases tend to last between 18 to 24 months.

The specialized services offered in mental health court — a collective effort between the DA’s Special Litigation Bureau, the judge, lawyers, and services provided through the organization CASES — should be afforded to even more people, some public defenders say, without as many barriers to entry.

“I asked them a bazillion times why they didn’t offer [Reyes] a proffer,” said Karny, referring to a request to screen him. “I would tell the judge, I’m not giving up on mental health court. But guess what? I have to give up because it’s up to [the DA]. And that’s a huge thing. It’s up to prosecutors and it shouldn’t be up to them.”

Manhattan Mental Health Court — one of five mental health courts in the city — started in 2011, according to New York County Defender Services mental health attorney specialist Katherine Bajuk, a champion of this diversion court and the services it provides.

Bajuk said part of the problem is some lawyers don’t know to refer their cases to mental health court — and if they do, they don’t always follow the specific procedure required for consideration. Some prosecutors, she said, also don’t flag cases for the DA’s special litigation unit.

“The more experienced [prosecutors], they know [what to do]. I’ve had DAs come into mental health court with me on client cases…and they advocate just as hard as we do,” she said. "We need more people like that getting assigned to these cases from go.”

To be a candidate for mental health court, a person has to be 18, have a serious mental illness, must be charged with a felony — including violent felonies — and must be capable of entering a voluntary plea and gets the blessing from the DA’s special litigation unit.

Reyes has picked up several other charges over the years, including a second-degree burglary charge in 2013 and a second-degree burglary charge in 2019. Both are considered violent felonies even though Reyes never had a weapon and never physically harmed anyone.

Karny says mental health court is no longer an option for Reyes — but had he gotten in, he likely would have had fewer run-ins with the law and better mental health treatment.

“After careful consideration of this case, the defendant’s criminal history and status as a persistent violent felony offender, and his failure to follow-through with programming in the past, we declined to refer him to Manhattan Mental Health Court," Manhattan District Attorney Spokeswoman Emily Tuttle said in a statement.

On a recent October day in Lower Manhattan, Karny stood with Reyes, who was bundled in a heavy, high-collar oatmeal knit sweater to stave off the fall chill. As she spoke, Reyes gave her a gentle smile, eyes creasing through his thick dark frames, his green hair catching the autumn light. With mental health court out of reach, Reyes faces an uncertain future — but he still has faith in Karny.

“I have the best lawyer,” he said softly, minutes before he walked away with her, a cup of coffee in hand.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Judicial Watch Sues State of Illinois For Failing To Allow Public Access To Voter Roll Data

 

                                  Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch


Judicial Watch Sues State of Illinois for Refusing to Disclose Voter Roll Data in Violation of Federal Law

Judicial Watch Analysis Finds Dirty Voting Rolls in State
 
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a lawsuit against the state of Illinois, the Illinois State Board of Elections, and its director for failing to allow public access to its voter roll data in violation of the federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
 
State officials refused to allow the non-profit Illinois Conservative Union and three lawfully registered Illinois voters to obtain a copy of the state’s voter registration list, despite their lawful request for those records under federal law. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit on their behalf in the United States District Court in the Northern District of Illinois (Illinois Conservative Union et al v. Illinois et al. (No. 1:20-cv-05542)).
 
Federal law provides that states “shall make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters.” 
 
On July 24, 2019, the Illinois Conservative Union sent a public records request under this provision to the Illinois State Board of Elections, requesting information about the maintenance of voter rolls, including the most recent voter registration list for Illinois. The request noted that the records “would be used solely for purposes intended by federal law, namely, to ensure the accuracy and currency of the official list of eligible voters,” the complaint said.
 
The State Board of Elections denied the request, claiming that only political committees or governmental bodies may receive copies of records. The State Board did allow a few Illinois Conservative Union members to travel to Springfield, Illinois during working hours and afforded them the opportunity to review Illinois’ millions of voter records one at a time on a computer terminal, with no ability to sort or organize records. By this lawsuit the Illinois Conservative Union seeks meaningful access to the records it requested. 
 
As several federal courts have recognized, the public records provisions of the National Voter Registration Act were intended to enhance the ability of private groups to monitor whether states are removing ineligible voters from their voter rolls. In April, a federal court in Maryland noted that organizations “such as Judicial Watch” have “the resources and expertise that few individuals can marshal. By excluding these organizations from access to voter registration lists,” the purpose of the federal law is undermined. That court ordered Maryland to produce complete voter registration records requested by Judicial Watch. 
 
In Illinois, Judicial Watch’s research found that 14 out of 102 counties (14% of all counties) have more registered voters than citizens over 18, while Illinois as a whole has 660,000 inactive registrants.
 
“This lawsuit aims to open up Illinois voting records so private groups can tell whether they are dirty,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Illinois voters and citizens have a right to review election rolls under federal law and Illinois’ refusal to make them available suggests the state knows the rolls are a mess and won’t stand the light of the day.”
 
Judicial Watch is a national leader for cleaner elections.
 
Earlier this year, Judicial Watch sued Pennsylvania and North Carolina for failing to make reasonable efforts to remove ineligible voters from their rolls as required by federal law. The lawsuits allege that the two states have nearly 2 million extra names on voter registration rolls.
 
In 2018, the Supreme Court upheld a voter-roll cleanup program that resulted from a Judicial Watch settlement of a federal lawsuit with Ohio. California settled a National Voter Registration Act lawsuit with Judicial Watch and last year began the process of removing up to 1.6 million inactive names from Los Angeles County’s voter rolls. Kentucky also began a cleanup of hundreds of thousands of old registrations last year after it entered into a consent decree to end another Judicial Watch lawsuit.
 
Judicial Watch’s 2019 study found 378 counties nationwide that had more voter registrations than citizens old enough to vote, i.e., counties where registration rates exceed 100%. These 378 counties combined had about 2.5 million registrations over the 100%-registered mark.
 
Judicial Watch Attorney Robert Popper is the director of Judicial Watch’s election integrity initiative. Judicial Watch is being assisted by attorney David J. Shestokas of Orland Park, Illinois.