A grand jury will consider the involuntary manslaughter case against a former Las Vegas police officer in the neck-hold death of an unarmed man outside a Strip casino last May, prosecutors told a judge Thursday.
The former officer, Kenneth Lopera, did not appear in court for a brief hearing, at which prosecutors told the judge they plan to seek an indictment in the May 2017 asphyxiation death of 40-year-old Tashii Brown.
Justice of the Peace Cynthia Cruz gave prosecutors until March 26 to take the case to the grand jury.
The panel could revise charges filed last June against Lopera, who became the first Las Vegas police officer in 27 years to be charged with involuntary manslaughter. He was dismissed from the department in September.
Lopera, 32, also is accused of felony oppression under color of office. He could face up to eight years in prison if he is convicted of both charges. He remains free on $6,000 bail.
Steve Grammas, head of the police union representing the former officer, said he expects the grand jury to find that Lopera didn’t cause Brown’s death and that Brown died of other health problems and the influence of methamphetamine.
“We had hoped a grand jury would hear this case,” Grammas said.
The development drew criticism from American Civil Liberties Union executive Tod Story, who accused prosecutors of “wavering under pressure from the police union.”
Gary Peck, a longtime Nevada civil rights advocate, called it “unfortunate that the wheels of justice grind so slowly when we are dealing with an issue of critical importance to the community.”
Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg ruled last June that Brown died of “asphyxia due to police restraint,” and called the death a homicide. He also listed as “significant contributing conditions” that Brown had an enlarged heart and was under the influence of methamphetamine.
Brown, who also used the name Tashii Farmer, approached Lopera and his patrol partner in a coffee shop at The Venetian, telling them he thought people were after him, police have said. He then ran through employees-only hallways and out a rear entrance.
Lopera chased Brown, and video from the officer’s body camera and casino security views show him using a stun gun on Brown seven times, punching him more than 10 times and putting him in what a police supervisors called an unapproved chokehold for a minute and 13 seconds.
Police said the number of shocks violated department policy and the neck hold differed from an approved method taught to officers to render combative people unconscious.
Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who leads Las Vegas police, announced in September that the agency was changing use-of-force policies to stop routine use of neck holds.
Many other police departments prohibit officers from using the technique unless they are in a life-or-death struggle.
Records show that from 2012 to 2016, Los Angeles officers reported using neck holds just seven times. Las Vegas police, by comparison, reported using the technique 274 times during the same five-year period
What a petty, venal, corrupt and foul thing it is. More media-generated homunculus than man, every day, Donald Trump behaves more and more like the cornered animal desperately trying to save itself by viciously biting in every direction, pulling out every nasty trick that has worked for him before. But now he gnashes his teeth on a global stage so vast that the pettiness of his vindictiveness is unconcealed, cast in a spotlight that diminishes every American.
With last week’s firing of Rex Tillerson and the dismissal of Andrew McCabe as deputy director of the FBI just hours before he was eligible for his pension after 21 years of service, the president once again demonstrated that as the Mueller investigation seems to get closer to a truth he does not want revealed, there is no bottom to the well of deception, posturing, vengefulness—and fear— that motivates his actions. Trump’s is the real witch-hunt.
Yes, it’s important that we soon see the inspector general’s report that was used to justify McCabe’s ouster, but to follow that character assassination Friday night with a Trump tweet celebrating the sacking as “a great day for Democracy” is a cruelly ironic subversion of our founding principles of liberty and justice.
Ironic, too, that this McCabe madness and that first of a new fusillade of dumb and desperate weekend tweets deliberately aimed at undermining Mueller’s probe should come down on the very day we marked the contributions of two politicians who dedicated their lives not to avarice and self-aggrandizement but to public service.
March 16 was the 50th anniversary of the day Robert F. Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. It was a controversial decision; as the Vietnam conflict raged on, Gene McCarthy had emerged as the leading antiwar Democrat challenging Lyndon Johnson’s re-election and Kennedy was accused of opportunism, of using McCarthy’s bid to test the waters for his own race.
Those old enough to recall 1968 remember it as a year like no other. The campaign for the White House was a cauldron of roiling drama and crisis. Kennedy was not running solely on his charisma and the family name; nor was he a one-issue candidate. He spoke out in opposition to the Vietnam War but consistently and passionately against poverty and social injustice as well. Here’s a little of what Kennedy said in a speech just two days after he declared he was running:
“… The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.
“It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.
“And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”
Try to imagine Donald Trump or his pals saying any of that and you’ll realize just how far our republic has fallen. Right after you recover from a fit of bitter laughter.
Friday also was the day we lost Rep. Louise Slaughter, the western New York congresswoman who was the oldest sitting member of the House. She served for nearly 32 years.
Here’s how Harrison Smith in The Washington Post described her: “The daughter of a blacksmith in a Kentucky coal mine, Rep. Slaughter traced her lineage to Daniel Boone and attacked her political opponents with a marksman’s accuracy and, not infrequently, a disarming grin.”
She was a microbiologist who moved to New York State with her husband in the 1950s. A local fight over a stand of beech-maple trees drew her to elected office, serving in county and state legislatures and then Congress. Slaughter was the first woman to chair the powerful House Rules Committee. She co-sponsored the 1994 Violence against Women Act, defended the right to choose, fought to get the Senate to hear Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas’ nomination to the Supreme Court, co-chaired the Congressional Arts Caucus and wrote the STOCK Act to bar members of Congress from insider trading.
I was proud to be her friend. Louise Slaughter and I sat next to each other at a dinner in Rochester, NY, eight years ago and bonded over politics and a shared love for the song lyrics of Johnny Mercer. We would talk on the phone from time to time and the day she died I found a recent voicemail in which she cheerfully chatted about being up to her neck in work and pushing back against the unending Republican attempts to kill Obamacare, a bill she had helped advance through the House.
Both Louise Slaughter and Bobby Kennedy represented New York State on Capitol Hill but their concern was for the whole nation. They shared a commitment to compassion, fairness and equal rights that transcended payoffs, privilege and bullying egos. They recognized that country and citizenship should come first and that elections are supposed to be about being chosen to speak for the best interests of the people.
There’s speculation that the latest Trump rant was set off by special counsel Mueller’s subpoena of Trump corporate records and an initial list of questions he has submitted for the president to answer. They doubtless are just the beginning of queries intended to determine whether our chief executive has obstructed justice or colluded with Russia in election tampering, whether he chose profit and self-interest over patriotism and loyalty.
Compare Trump to Kennedy and Slaughter and it makes you want to weep. And then pray.
NRA Board Member Ted Nugent Posts that Parkland Students Are Fake Actors
As reported by Media Matters, the “Motor City Madman” posted an article on his Facebook page pushing a right-wing conspiracy theory alleging survivors of Florida’s Parkland school massacre were “coached” actors.
The article, from noted fake news purveyor Natural News, claimed the students “were coached to repeat scripted lines, just like actors reading lines for a movie production” in order “to push a gun control narrative rooted in emotional reaction rather than constructive solutions.” Nugent later “liked” a comment left below the post article claiming that one of the students was “a paid crisis actor” who “has been at multiple shootings as a ‘survivor.'”
As Media Matters points out, much of the article was lifted from another site, The Gateway Pundit — which even InfoWars has accused of being “fake news.”
The Nuge, a National Rifle Association board member, has a long history of promoting right-wing conspiracy theories in the aftermath of gun violence.
“I’m not a crisis actor,” Hogg told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Tuesday. “I’m someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to be having to do that.”
Nugent’s actions have been supported by some, but others are condeming the rocker. A statement released by Michigan Democratic Party Chair Brandon Dillon called Nugent “vile and disgusting” for “pushing the disgusting and harmful conspiracy theory.”
Another Trump Official Fails Security Clearance and Fired
Senior White House official George David Banks has “resigned” after being told that his security clearance had been denied. It makes him the third White House official to resign in just one week.
Banks, who served as Special Assistant to the President for International Energy and Environment for nearly a year, told Politico on Wednesday that his application for a permanent security clearance had been denied.
According to Banks, his security clearance had been denied because he admitted to smoking marijuana in 2013, which is illegal under federal law — however, the current policy is that they can get clearance unless they lied about it.
The allegations surrounding Porter have prompted questions about the handling of permanent security clearances as Porter, along with some other officials at the White House, were using interim clearances. The White House has also been under fire for its handling of the allegations against Porter.
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